Wisconsin roads were the safest in decadesWisconsin highway officials say this may end up being the safest year on state roads since World War II.
By: Brian Bull, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Wisconsin highway officials say this may end up being the safest year on state roads since World War II.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there’ve been 541 people killed in crashes and the struggling economy may be a factor for the near-record rate.
While highway officials have long urged drivers to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, and obey speed limits, their efforts this year may have benefited from the recession. Major Dan Lonsdorf of the Wisconsin Bureau of Transportation Safety says the economic downturn has slowed down spending and travel enough where transportation officials are seeing some of that effect on state roads.
Lonsdorf figures 2009 will end with about 550 traffic deaths in the state. That would be the best year since 1944, which had 526 deaths. He says the recession has caused Wisconsin drivers to put off long trips, and do more short-term “staycation” travel. He says the total annual vehicle miles traveled in Wisconsin are down about three percent this year, and people are slowing down and conserving gas to save money.
Besides the economy’s role in fewer traffic deaths, Jason Bittner of the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education says today’s cars are simply better designed for safety as are the roads. He says specifically in Wisconsin, crash median barriers have helped prevent head-on collisions, and roadside hazards like poles and trees have been removed from the right of way.
Bittner and Lonsdorf expect recent legislative measures on drunk driving to help cut traffic deaths even further. Lonsdorf hopes to break the 1944 record in a couple years.