Wisconsin and 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. The 100 deadliest days between Memorial Day and Labor Day typically result in more deaths and injuries.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation urges everyone across the state to make a commitment to safe driving.

“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. That’s 16 more deaths than at the same time in 2021. Most of those who died were the driver.

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. 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 agency has collected fatal crash data.

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.

Education and action

WisDOT is increasing public awareness messages to address these concerns.

  • 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.

“The challenges of risky driving behavior cannot be solved by enforcement alone. We need a commitment from every driver, so we are working to raise awareness of the dangers and create a safer transportation system for all of us,” WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety Director David Pabst said.

Last year, WisDOT launched a new campaign to save lives on the road.

Buckle Up Phone Down campaign 

Buckle Up Phone Down aims to raise awareness of the importance of those two simple safety steps.

An unbelted driver or passenger is eight times more likely to die in a crash than if a seat belt is used. Half of those killed in crashes in Wisconsin in 2021 were not wearing seat belts.

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.

WisDOT is renewing the call for businesses, organizations, and individuals to make a commitment to safe driving by taking the Buckle Up Phone Down pledge.

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