There are roughly 14,000 car accidents every year in Wyoming and most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.
That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined as “anything that takes the eyes off the road, mind off of driving, and hands off of the steering wheel while operating a motor vehicle.”
Most people think mainly of texting or otherwise using a handheld cell phone when they think of distracted driving, but other common practices also fall under this category including:
- Adjusting the A/C
- Attending to fussy children in the backseat
- Eating or drinking
- Reaching for your favorite sunglasses
- Having a conversation with a passenger
Naturally, most of these actions are perfectly legal. But because they do increase your risk of an accident, they should be done cautiously. Wyoming law is focused primarily on the riskiest distracted driving behavior, texting, leaving other distractions unchecked on the roads.
Distracted Driving Statistics in Wyoming
You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Wyoming:
- In 2018, distracted driving was responsible for 902 accidents in Wyoming. Of these:
- 229 were caused by distractions from cell phone and other electronics
- 383 were caused by distractions within the vehicle
- 290 were caused by distractions outside the vehicle
- Distracted driving accidents caused 352 injuries and 5 fatalities in this state
- A 2019 study ranked Wyoming as the 3rd most deadly state when it comes to distracted driving
Distracted driving versus driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol in Wyoming
Speeding continues to be the top cause of vehicular accidents and fatalities in Wyoming. Interestingly as the above chart points out, although drivers are more likely to cause fatal accident while driving drunk, distracted driving causes more accidents in this state.
Does Wyoming Have Laws against Distracted Driving?
Wyoming currently prohibits:
- Reading, writing, and sending text messages, instant messages, or emails unless the vehicle is off the road and legally parked
- Commercial vehicle drivers from using handheld communications devices
Some cities in Wyoming have rolled out their own laws and restrict the use of handheld devices. Posted signs will alert drivers that they must put their phones down while entering city limits. These cities include:
Are There any Exceptions to Wyoming's Distracted Driving Laws?
The following exceptions to Wyoming’s distracted driving law apply:
- Reading, writing, selecting, or entering a phone number or name into an electronic device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call is permitted.
- Texting is permitted when done using voice-to-text hand-free technology.
- Using a handheld device to summon the emergency services such as an ambulance, fire department, or law enforcement is permitted.
- The state’s distracted driving law is not applicable to drivers of emergency response vehicles who are acting within the scope of their official duties as an emergency responder.
Wyoming Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance
|Is Texting while Driving Legal?||X|
|Can You Send/Receive Texts at a Red Light?||X|
|Is Hand-held Device Use Permitted?||X|
|Any Special Restriction for Young Drivers?||X|
|Is Headphones/Headset Use Permitted?||X|
Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger while Driving in Wyoming?
Yes, but that doesn't mean you should.
Distracted driving comes in many forms, and eating a cheeseburger can be just as distracting as talking on a cell phone. Basically anything that takes your attention away from the primary task of driving presents a potential hazard.
So what happens if a police officer in Wyoming sees you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There's no law that says you can't eat while driving in this state.
However, even legal distractions (like eating or adjusting the radio) can significantly increase your risk of being in an accident or driving erratically, and these are actions that can earn you a citation. It's always better to avoid as many distractions as possible.
Unless you're really in a hurry, you’re better off eating your Whopper indoors or in the parking lot.
What's the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?
Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.
Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.
Wyoming uses primary enforcement meaning that even if you're in total control of your vehicle while using your cell phone, a police officer who sees you doing so can pull your over and write up a citation.
What's the Fine for Distracted Driving in Wyoming?
Violation of the state’s distracted driving law is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $75.
Commercial vehicle drivers who violate the law risk having their CDL license suspended or permanently revoked.
Wyoming compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions
Currently, every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. But once 2021 rolls around and Arizona's law comes into effect, Montana will be the only state left.
Does a Distracted Driving Citation in Wyoming Increase Insurance Rates?
If you're cited for distracted driving in Wyoming, there's a good chance your insurance carrier will know about the infraction. This will almost certainly cause your coverage rates to go up.
The amount of your rate hike will depend on which insurance company you use and your overall driving history. In Wyoming, distracted driving citations cause rates to go up an average of $87 a year.
And if you have a Safe Driver Discount, you can say goodbye to that. Distracted driving frequently disqualifies drivers from receiving this discount, and this can cause the rate increase to be even more painful.
What if I Drive into Another State?
Distracted driving laws vary by state, and when you cross that state line you are required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get you out of a citation, so be sure to check on the current laws for any states you may be traveling through before you take your next road trip.
For example, Utah and Colorado both place restrictions on all cell phone use by young drivers. Does that mean if your seventeen-year-old child drives over the border they need to end the call immediately? Yes, it does.
And, Montana permits drivers to use their cell phones in any way they want while driving. So does this mean if you drive into Montana, you can text and watch videos and post selfies on social media all while driving? Yes, you can – but why would you? Just because something is legal does not mean that it is wise.
What Is Wyoming Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving?
In 2010, Wyoming became the 20th state to ban texting while driving. Since then, however, there has been little support for a statewide ban on handheld devices. Despite the introduction of several bills geared toward such a ban, none has progressed very far.
In the meantime, the state is hoping that awareness campaigns and education in the schools will help alleviate the high number of accidents caused by driver distractions in this state.
So What Can You Do?
Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting until you get home.
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