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WYDOT, WHP urge motorists to pay attention when driving

During the holidays, more motorists will be on the roads traveling to visit family and friends, making it even more important for drivers to pay attention when they get behind the wheel.

Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Highway Patrol officials are urging motorists to put distractions away and focus on driving to help reduce or eliminate fatalities associated with distracted driving.

“Safe driving requires a combination of skills, dexterity, and focus,” said WYDOT Director Bill Panos. “Any activity that takes your attention away from the road should be avoided.”

Distracted driving takes many forms, such as texting, eating, changing a radio station, talking, and watching something other than the road. Those activities should be avoided when driving. If a person needs to use their cell phone, they should pull off the road in a safe, designated area.

“Texting and driving are by far the most dangerous because it combines three types of distracted driving – manual, visual and cognitive,” said Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. Kebin Haller. “When you’re texting, you are not watching the road. You’re also taking your hands off the steering wheel. And, you’re also thinking about what your typing instead of driving.”

Distracted driving fatal crashes have fluctuated during the past five years in Wyoming. There were 9 distracted driving fatalities in 2017, 10 in 2016, 10 in 2015, eight in 2014 and six in 2013.

“We want people to avoid distractions when they drive so they can arrive at their destinations safely this holiday season,” Panos said. “Not only is this important during the holidays but for any time of the year. Eliminating distractions means we can help protect ourselves and our fellow Wyoming citizens.”

On average, it takes about five seconds to read or send a text. But in that five seconds, a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour can travel the length of a football field, information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated.

Not only has distracted driving claimed lives in Wyoming, but it’s also a problem nationwide.  About 3,450 lives were lost in 2016 because of distracted driving, statistics from the NHTSA showed.

“Passengers can help with distracted driving by speaking out if the driver is distracted,” Haller said.

Besides avoiding distracted driving, motorists also should never drive intoxicated and always wear their seatbelts. When motorists head out, they should also plan ahead by visiting WYDOT’s 511 website at wyoroad.info for the latest road and travel information.

WYDOT’s 511 website also has a 511 mobile app that provides hands-free, eyes-free travel information.

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