After a "winter from hell" full of interstate closures and nightmare road conditions, a new study suggests Wyoming might just be the most dangerous state in the U.S. for truckers when it comes to the likelihood of involvement in a fatality crash. According to an analysis of 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data by Simplex, a transportation services company, in 2020 Wyoming had more large truck crashes as a share of overall fatal crashes than any other state.
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More recent estimates from the NHTSA say that fatalities probably went down in 2022, but since then, plenty of anecdotal data has come up suggesting that the Cowboy State might be as dangerous as ever.
A map of fatal truck crashes in Wyoming shows a concentration on I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins, which this most recent winter saw dozens of closures, sometimes just staying open for a few hours between crashes or weather events.
Every winter, road crews in Wyoming battle gigantic snow drifts that can close I-80 just from wind alone that moves snow off the high plains and over the road even days after a storm. The frequent closures left drivers stranded and produced no shortage of hair-raising dashcam videos.
Worse, Wyoming Highway Patrol during the same period reported finding drivers using tablets and even watching movies behind the wheel. Overall, Wyoming's long, flat stretch of I-80 along the Rockies seems to invite both distracted driving and bad weather, so much so that the state's legislature explored a $12.6 billion plan to reroute I-80.
[Related: Long Haul Paul's "Winter from hell" on I-80 in Wyoming]
Out of the 174 fatal vehicle crashes that occurred in Wyoming in 2020, 33 involved large trucks, or about 19% of the state's total fatal crashes. Other high-scorers on the list also hailed from the West and Midwest, charting a contiguous line from Idaho (16.3%) east to Iowa.
Michigan, with its rather permissive approach to weight restrictions on state routes, came out as the safest state for truck drivers when it comes to likelihood of a truck-involved fatality crash, with only 4.7% of its fatal crashes involving large trucks.
"This research offers an interesting insight into which states are lagging behind the goal of making roads safer for truck drivers," said a Simplex spokesperson. "It also highlights the need for these states to consider implementing more truck-safe road systems for drivers."
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