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Summer months deadly for teen drivers

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, summer has unofficially begun for many Wyoming residents. That means that more people will be hitting the road to go to graduations, family barbeques and beach parties. Unfortunately, increased road traffic also means an increased risk of car accidents. This is especially true for young drivers.

In fact, the Ford Motor Co. says that the 100-day period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is one of the deadliest periods of the year for teen drivers. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety corroborates this, reporting that fatal crashes involving members of that age group spike around 15% during the summer months. According to the organization's researchers, two of the main reasons for this are that teen drivers are inexperienced and they have more opportunity to take to the road when school is out for the summer.

Some cars are more deadly than others

While many Wyoming residents rely on personal vehicles to get from one place to another, many are aware that cars are inherently dangerous. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that in 2017 alone, there were 34,247 fatal accidents. These accidents claimed a reported 37,133 lives.

Although many safety features have been and are still being released to make cars safer, there are still some vehicles that are safer than others. For those who are looking to buy a used vehicle for new or younger drivers, keeping safety in mind is important. Not surprisingly, cars that are smaller in size or are sport coupes tend to be more deadly. This is simply due to the laws of physics; heavier cars are inherently better at being able to protect the occupants than smaller, lighter cars. Additionally, drivers tend to operate these vehicles at faster speeds due to their agility.

Truck crashes rise, mostly putting other drivers at risk

There were 34,439 deadly car crashes in Wyoming and the rest of the U.S. in 2017, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Of those, 4,079 involved at least one large truck or bus. Truck crashes have been on the rise with Florida seeing a jump from 23,515 crashes in 2014 to 32,513 in 2018, and the number one driver-related factor in these crashes, according to the Florida DoT, is speeding.

As a result, many trucking companies are turning to vehicle safety tech to keep truckers and other drivers safe. Maverick Transportation, a mid-sized company in the Midwest, has been installing everything from collision warning systems and lane departure warning to roll stability control and in-cab cameras on its fleet of 1,800 trucks. In 2018, Maverick only saw one reportable accident among its fleet.

Factors that make a DUI more serious than just drunk driving

Perhaps you stopped off for happy hour and thought you were okay to drive home. Then, with no warning, you see lights and hear sirens coming from behind you. You pull over to the side hoping the patrol car will go past you, but instead, it follows you off the roadway. In the alternative, you may have an accident on the way home. As you sit in your vehicle dazed and confused, the police arrive and begin asking you questions.

In either case, officers suspect you of drunk driving and arrest you. Upon arrival at the police station, you find out that you face a DUI involving additional circumstances that could lead to harsher penalties if convicted.

Drivers admit to texting, surfing internet behind the wheel

While many people in Wyoming express serious concerns about the hazards of distracted driving, survey results show that many of the same people continue to engage in these dangerous behaviors themselves. One study carried out by auto insurer Root Insurance noted that nearly half of all drivers said that distraction behind the wheel was a major safety concern for motorists. This mirrors the nationwide focus on distraction, which is often caused by mobile devices behind the wheel.

Many states have passed laws against texting while driving or other distracted behaviors. There are also many public awareness ads aiming to draw attention to the issue. Despite the fact that drivers realize distracted driving is dangerous, they continue to talk, text, surf and email behind the wheel. According to the survey results, drivers admitted to spending around 13 minutes each day on the phone while driving. Around 38% of the respondents say that they stay on their phones even when they see police cars passing by. Drivers are not engaged in simple voice conversations that could be conducted hands-free.

First responder study reveals distracted driving dangers

Road safety experts say that a worrying rise in distracted driving in Wyoming and around the country is being caused by cellphone use, and the finger of blame is generally pointed at motorists who use these devices to send text messages or access social media platforms while behind the wheel. However, the results of a driver poll released on March 3 by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute and the National Safety Council highlights another smartphone danger.

More than 70 percent of the 2,001 respondents said that they slow down to take photographs or shoot video of accident scenes to post on social media, and one in 10 admitted that they either struck or almost struck an emergency worker while doing so. The results of the ERSI and NSC poll were released to coincide with the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Taking steps to minimize fatalities involving large trucks

Drivers in Wyoming might be surprised when they learn just how many fatal accidents there are involving large trucks. It's estimated that in 2017, more than 4,100 people died in these types of accidents. This represents a 28 percent increase over the number of similar accidents that took place in 2009.

When the numbers are broken down, around 68 percent of these fatalities involved occupants of cars or other types of passenger vehicles. Fourteen percent of these accidents involved pedestrians or individuals on bicycles or motorcycles. These are numbers that should catch the attention of anyone who is concerned about the safety of the highways.

Losing 2 hours of sleep is as dangerous as drunk driving

Losing just one or two hours of sleep can make drivers in Wyoming and around the country almost twice as likely to crash according to the American Automobile Association. Researchers from the Florida-based nonprofit group's Foundation for Traffic Safety say that driving after sleeping for five hours or less impairs motorists as much as having a blood alcohol concentration higher than the .08 percent legal limit. According to the AAA, drivers need at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to operate a car, pickup truck, or SUV safely.

The issue of drowsy driving frustrates road safety organizations because polls reveal that people are aware of the dangers but routinely choose to ignore them. About 95 percent of motorists consider driving while fatigued irresponsible and unacceptable, but almost a third of them also admit to driving while dangerously drowsy at least once in the past month.

Texting is not the only dangerous form of distracted driving

Wyoming readers know that distracted driving is a problem, and it is one of the most serious public safety concerns facing motorists across the country. Drivers are dealing with more distractions than ever before, and many choose to look at their phones or engage in dangerous behaviors, even if they are aware of the risks. Distracted drivers are significantly more likely to cause an accident and endanger themselves and others.

When you think about distracted driving, you probably think about using your phone while operating a vehicle. Texting is the most common type of distracted behaviors drivers tend to engage in, but it is not the only one. There are many things that can distract, and they are all dangerous, for the driver and everyone else on the road.

Steps to take immediately after a car accident

Being in a car accident can be an upsetting experience, but it can be important to take steps to document what has happened before anything changes or people begin to forget how it occurred. The first step for people in Wyoming should be remaining calm and determining whether anyone needs emergency care.

If no one needs care or if it is being given, the person should begin documenting the accident. This includes photographs and witness accounts as well as the person's own account. Witnesses and other people involved in the accident may have versions that differ, but all accounts should simply be recorded neutrally. When taking photos, special attention should be paid to property damage and any skid marks. Cars should not be moved until after law enforcement arrives if it is possible.

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