EDITORIAL: Safety on highways depends on alert, defensive driving

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With the weather warming up and the end of the school year nearing, more people will take to the highways as they head for graduations, vacations and other special events.

We want everyone to get to their destinations safely. To ensure that happens, we all must take precautions and drive defensively.

Unfortunately, the number of highway fatalities in Wyoming so far this year has more than doubled over last year. As of Friday, 28 people had died on Wyoming highways this year — 15 more than the 13 highway deaths recorded during the same time period in 2016. However, there have been fewer fatalities this year than in 2015, when crashes on Wyoming highways claimed the lives of 36 people by April 24.

Regardless of the year, nearly all traffic deaths are preventable.

A report from the Wyoming Department of Transportation with information about the first 19 fatalities this year shows roads were dry when all but four of those fatal crashes occurred. Contributing factors in the crashes covered by that report included speeding or driving too fast for conditions; following too close; overcorrecting steering; improper passing; failure to keep in the proper lane; disregarding signs or road markings; and running off the road.

Alcohol was involved in four of the 19 fatalities; drug use was a factor in five. Nine of the people who died were not using their seat belts.

While the report doesn’t indicate whether distracted driving was a factor in any of the fatal crashes, it’s a growing problem.

“New technology in vehicles is causing us to become more distracted behind the wheel than ever before,” says the National Safety Council.

With more vehicles sharing the roadways and more distractions competing for drivers’ attention, it’s important for all of us to pay attention to the task of driving and to drive safely and defensively. Some of the ways we can do that include:

Remember, when we get behind the wheel, we are responsible for our own safety and that of our passengers, as well as the safety of others who share the highway with us. It is up to us to prevent accidents and to be aware of potential hazards that could compromise that safety.

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