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Anyone traveling through Wyoming must brace for unusually strong gusts of wind that can topple an empty rig in the blink of an eye. This article will focus on gentler winds, i.e. changes in Wyoming law and attitude that are still worthy of your attention.
Wyoming made national news in April when two huge pile-ups occurred on I-80 within a single week, raising concerns about highway safety along our vast open spaces. While truckers have always known to â€œexpect the unexpectedâ€, Wyoming weather and abundant wildlife can surprise even the most experienced drivers! Bluebird weather one minute can change to dense fog or ground blizzards the next, and pulling off to the side of the road has its own risk as everyone else is trying to do the same. It can become one big tragic cluster in seconds.
This is why the Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) opposed legislative bills to raise the speed limit from 75 mph to 80 mph on long, lonely stretches of our interstate highways. The patrol reasoned that higher speeds would result in less reaction time to our unpredictable everythingand urged Wyoming lawmakers not to raise the limit. Those patrol worries did not win the day. So, Wyoming motorists enjoy the higher speed limit, but the WHP is showing less tolerance for those exceeding the limit even by a few miles per hour.
Several months ago it came to light that the WHP tied raises, promotions, and bonuses to ticket quotas, setting off a firestorm of criticism that resulted in discarding such policy before lawmakers felt compelled to introduce bills to formally stop the practice. The negative public sentiment toward the WHP changed quickly after the April pile-ups as the patrol worked tirelessly in horrible conditions to rescue accident victims and clean-up the carnage for days afterward.
Newspaper photos of the scene from both accidents showed multiple mangled semis and prompted a number of letters to the editor urging truckers to drive more cautiously. What few outside the industry realize is that truckers cannot stop on a dime and are as susceptible as any other driver to sudden zero visibility.
Like the Serenity Prayer, we seek patience to accept what we cannot change, and strength to change what we must. Obviously, operators can lessen risk by making sure their equipment and their brains are in good working order and capable of handling higher highway speeds and adjusting to sudden changes in conditions.