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The rate of vehicle fatalities is high in Wyoming, but WYDOT says the methodology for the data is skewed 

J. Bonney
NPS Photo

Wyoming has the second highest death rate from vehicle crashes in the country, right behind Mississippi, according to a recent study from the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, not everyone agrees with the findings.

The report shows that 22 people died in a vehicle crash in Wyoming for every 100,000 residents in 2020.

“I really disagree with that ranking. It's a statistical ranking,” said Doug McGee, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) public affairs officer. “It's skewed, because of Wyoming's, essentially, low population.”

Meaning, the study looks at vehicle fatalities compared to the population of the state, but McGee said a lot of non-residents are driving through Wyoming which can increase fatalities on the roads.

“We're in the middle of the country, we're a huge pass through state with three interstates – I-80, I-25 and I-90,” he said. “So a large volume of traffic that's on our roads at any time during the day, did not originate in Wyoming and won't end in Wyoming.”

The report does not take into consideration whether the fatility is a resident or not.

Nevertheless, McGee said the state does have challenging roads, especially in the winter.

“Wyomingites probably drive more on a daily basis, just to go about their lives than most folks in most states. So longer commutes, longer drives, to school, to the store, etc, just because we're such a rural state,” he said. “Those long drives are now impacted by inclement weather, icing and drifting and visibility.”

This winter has been particularly tough with extreme conditions causing crashes, road closures and damage to roads. McGee said the agency is working to fill in potholes formed from winter moisture.

“When there's more snow, there's more moisture, which means more opportunity for some of that moisture to get onto the road,” he said. “And then you throw on large numbers of traffic. So if you do have a pothole starting and you throw all that traffic on there, it can grow pretty fast.”

Snow is still expected in the forecast around Wyoming. McGee reminded drivers to give snowplows space, as the agency has continuously seen strikes to plows this winter.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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