Tianshui County — According to 2020 statistics, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, Sweetwater County had the third-highest total number of traffic accidents among Wyoming’s 23 counties, with 1,202 crashes.
Unsurprisingly, Laramie County (Cheyenne) topped the list with 1,900 crashes, followed by Natrona County (Casper) with 1,877 crashes. Campbell County (Gillette) was fourth with 1,073 crashes. However, densely populated Albany County (Laramie) came in fifth with 787 crashes despite its concentration of college-age drivers. At the bottom was Neo Brara County, with just 83 crashes in 2020.
Statistics provided by Stephanie Harsha, Senior Public Relations Specialist, District 3, Wyoming Department of Transportation, and included in a report by WYDOT State Highway Safety Engineer Matthew D. Carlson, PE
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Of the 1,202 crashes reported in Sweetwater County, there were 10 fatalities, including 14 fatalities. Another 218 Sweetwater crashes resulted in 326 injuries. A property damage only (PDO) crash number is 974.
Sweetwater County accident statistics involving teens are sketchy at best, but statewide teen driver statistics are available. In 2020, there were two fatal crashes, one involving a boy and one involving a girl, for drivers aged 14-16 in the category Total Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes.
For the same category, in the 17-20 age group, there were 11 crashes, 3 involving girls and 8 involving boys.
For the Total Drivers Involved in Injured Crashes in 2020, there were 7 such crashes in the under 14 driver age group, 4 involving girls and 3 involving boys.
Between the ages of 14-16, a total of 123 injuries occurred, of which 67 involved girls and 58 involved boys.
Between the ages of 17 and 20, the total number of injuries was 176 for girls and 221 for boys.
In the PDO category, for children under the age of 14, there were three accidents involving girls and two accidents involving boys. Between the ages of 14 and 16, there were 217 traffic accidents for girls and 254 traffic accidents for boys.
For 17-20, the respective numbers are 667 and 874.
However, Harsha added a caveat to the statistics: “In Wyoming, with such a small population, the statistics go up and down from year to year. It only takes four or five accidents to change the percentages.”
Green River High School driving education teacher Nick Hokanson explains why boys are generally more prone to accidents than girls.
“Boys drive a third more than girls,” Hokanson said. “Boys have a bad reputation. Boys drive more, so they get into more accidents.”
Hokanson added that Wyoming, with its wide streets and small population, is actually a relatively safe place to learn to drive. Young drivers can gain skills here that translate well to denser traffic when they drive in densely populated places like Salt Lake City or Los Angeles.
While there may not be exact statistics on teen-related accidents in Sweetwater County, the community is well aware that these accidents are happening, some of which include fatalities and life-changing injuries.
Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a three-part series exploring the challenges of teen driving in Sweetwater County. To read Part 1, click here.