In 2019, Wyoming has yet to see a month go by where someone hasn’t perished while traveling on state roadways.
As of Tuesday, April 16, the Wyoming Highway Patrol has investigated a total of 39 crashes, which is more than the 22 seen this time last year, the 27 in April 2017, and the 12 in April 2016.
Of those 39 fatalities, three occurred in Campbell County, one within Gillette city limits.
On Jan. 23, 48-year-old Joseph L. Bailly was the first Campbell County resident to lose his life on Wyoming roadways in 2019. His vehicle, a 2006 Chrysler, was struck head-on by a vehicle that crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 59, south of Wright.
On March 8, 30-year-old Lindsey Konyn was killed on Southern Drive in Gillette, after she failed to negotiate a right-hand curve. Konyn’s vehicle crossed into the westbound lane and collided with a pick-up.
And on April 16, 27-year-old Matthew Schmaljohn died after his vehicle overturned on Interstate 90, east of Gillette.
None of them were wearing seatbelts, according to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Not wearing a seatbelt appears to play a role in over half all Wyoming highway fatalities in 2019. Of the 39 fatalities this year, 17 of them were not wearing their seatbelts, making it the leading cause of deaths on Wyoming roadways in 2019.
“Seatbelts can and do save lives,” said WHP Sgt. Jeremy Beck. “We see it daily when investigating motor vehicle collisions.”
Regardless, misinformation continues to circulate amongst Wyoming drivers regarding the use of seatbelts, Beck continued.
“We all know someone who tries to create the argument about it being safer not to wear a seatbelt, and the anomaly of someone living because they were unbuckled,” Beck wrote in a statement. “This is not always true, and the facts prove it.”
In two of the three fatal crashes involving Campbell County residents this year, there were other people involved who were wearing their seatbelts. All of them were uninjured as a result of the crash, according to reports from the WHP.
Occasionally, the WHP hears from family members of those killed in car crashes who say their sons, daughters, husbands, and wives almost always buckled up, but on the day of the crash, they didn’t.
Perhaps they were just driving down the road or across town, it’s not always clear. But all it takes is one time, according to the WHP.
Wear your seatbelt, WHP cautions. Slow down for hazardous conditions, and never drive distracted.
“Remember, when we lose a life it’s someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, or family member who is still expecting them to come home,” Beck concluded. “The responsibility rests solely on each of us to create a safer Wyoming.