In a year where passenger traffic has been down significantly due to the pandemic – expectations were for a lower number of crashes and fatalities. Instead, crash rates and fatalities are higher than they were year to date in 2019, in Wisconsin, the Midwest and nationwide.

Two top Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) officials took time in a recently released “Transportation Connects Us” podcast to discuss this phenomenon and possible contributing factors.

“This data is quite concerning, considering that through 2019, and early 2020, we were heading toward our goal of zero in Wisconsin,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said. “In conversations with our neighboring states, as well as states across the country, we’ve learned this situation is not unique to Wisconsin.”

“Sadly, we’re seeing an increase in multiple risky behaviors by driver and passengers,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “There’s an increase in speeding, alcohol and drug use and a decrease in seat belt use. We’ve already surpassed the 2019 total fatalities caused by distracted driving.”

In addition to sharing current data, Secretary Thompson and Superintendent Burrell discuss the department safety initiatives that are in place at the department, many of which involve partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and are publicized in advance.

“These efforts are not about stopping or citing motorists. These are about public safety. We want people to voluntarily comply with traffic laws year-round,” Superintendent Burrell added. “It’s about getting everyone where they need to be safe and sound.”

“Safety is a shared responsibility. Every time you get behind that wheel, you have a responsibility to the safety of everyone else on that roadway, as well as yourself,” Secretary Thompson said.

“Transportation Connect Us” is a podcast series produced by WisDOT which focuses on transportation safety, engineering, transportation investments and DMV topics. Episodes are available here or download and subscribe wherever you find your podcasts.

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