Report: Deadly crashes rising in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, with other states across the country, are seeing a rise in deadly traffic crashes and risky driving behaviors. As the summer travel season begins, the state is bracing for one of the most dangerous times on our roads, with Memorial Day marking the beginning of the 100 deadliest days.

"Traffic safety is everyone’s responsibility. Sadly, many of the tragedies that result from dangerous driving are 100% preventable," WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said. "We need everyone to do their part to keep our roads safe. Drive sober. Buckle up, phone down. Every trip, every time."

This year in Wisconsin, 209 people have been killed in crashes so far. That’s 16 more deaths than this same time in 2021. Most of those who died were the driver, according to WisDOT.

The report shows that failure to wear a seat belt also contributes to crash deaths and injuries. A 2021 survey found about 88% of Wisconsin drivers and passengers were buckled up. That number has dropped two percentage points since 2019.

The problem is not unique to Wisconsin, though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports crash deaths rose by 10.5% in 2021, which was the largest ever annual percentage increase in the nearly five decades.

The report shows states across the country have seen a rise in risky behaviors like speeding and impaired driving, which ultimately led to more crash injuries and fatalities.

WisDOT is looking to increase public awareness messages to address these concerns with:

  • Enforcement campaigns like Click It or Ticket and Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over remind drivers of the dangers and consequences of risky driving.
  • Wisconsin State Patrol’s aerial enforcement patrols are announced publicly, aiming to stop speeding and reckless drivers.

Last year, WisDOT launched a new campaign to save lives on the road, the Buckle Up Phone Down campaign. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of those two simple safety steps.

WisDOT says deaths from distracted driving crashes are climbing in recent years; 40 people were killed in 2021, up from 31 in 2020 and 26 in 2019.

With some simple changes in behavior, Wisconsin drivers can stop these unacceptable trends:

  • Always buckle up. No matter how short the trip.
  • Pull over to send a text. Remember: texting while driving is illegal in Wisconsin.
  • Handheld cell phone use is banned in work zones and emergency response areas.
  • Remind friends and family to eliminate distractions and always wear a seat belt.