2013 Wyoming traffic deaths may fall below 100
AP

2013 Wyoming traffic deaths may fall below 100

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CHEYENNE — Since the 1940s, there have been more than 100 traffic deaths in Wyoming every year.

Until this year.

Through Monday afternoon, there have been 85 traffic fatalities in 2013, with one report pending, according to Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend. The deaths include two Kemmerer teens killed in a Natrona County collision on Saturday.

The number of fatalities is the lowest since 1945, when there were 71. (Numbers before 1980 are based on historical documents and aren't confirmed.)

Townsend said that visibility of law enforcement may have played a part in this year's number.

"There is no one reason as far as the why," he said. "But (visibility) certainly hasn't hurt any. The more visible we are, the more people are going to behave themselves."

For the past several years, the highway patrol and local law enforcement agencies have had extra officers out during periods marked by a lot of drinking, such as the upcoming New Year's holiday.

Officers target impaired driving as well as moving violations like lane changing without signaling, speeding or not using seat belts.

Townsend said the highway patrol also offers educational programs and has information on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

But the highway patrol isn't the only agency providing education.

The Wyoming Governor's Council on Impaired Driving has been holding news conferences and releasing ads about the dangers of drunken driving.

Ernie Johnson with the council said this -- combined with factors such as the economy causing people to drive less -- may be the reason for the decline.

"I hope the general public is starting to pay attention," he said.

The Governor's Council is not the only one trying to help. Johnson mentioned several communities that have safe ride programs including free taxi cab services in Casper and Cheyenne.

Though officials are happy with the decline in traffic deaths, the number may rise before the year is over, especially with the upcoming holiday.

And there is more work to be done to prevent future fatalities, they add.

Johnson said The Governor's Council will keep educating people about the dangers of impaired driving. The group is hoping to prevent another tragedy like one in 2001 when eight University of Wyoming athletes were killed in a suspected drunken- driving accident.

"In Wyoming, 647 people have been killed in alcohol-involved crashes since then," he said. "Hopefully, sooner or later people are going to learn that drunken driving does kill."

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