MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin is on track to record the lowest number of traffic fatalities statewide since 1943, transportation officials said.
As of Wednesday, there had been 480 fatalities so far this year, compared to 527 in 2013, according to Wisconsin Department of Transportation data.
Officials hope Wisconsin will have notched up fewer than 500 fatalities by the end of the year, marking the first time in more than seven decades that the state hasn’t hit that mark, said David Pabst, director of the department’s bureau of safety.
Five hundred “is still too many deaths, but we are making progress,” Pabst said.
Increased seat-belt usage, improved engineering on roadways, enhanced safety features in vehicles and efforts to curb drunken driving have helped to reduce the number of traffic deaths over the years, Pabst told Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1x2I1MC ).
About 85 percent of Wisconsin drivers wear seatbelts, up a few percentage points from last year, Pabst said.
The rise in compliance is partly due to an increasing number of licensed drivers who grew up wearing seatbelts, according to Capt. Todd Christie of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department. Seatbelt usage is one of the most important factors in preventing fatal accidents, he said.
“I’ve seen very, very few people ejected from vehicles who escape serious injury,” Christie said.
Advancements in highway engineering, including “rumblestrips” and roundabouts, also prevent serious crashes, Pabst said.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin’s SafeRide program and similar efforts have prevented thousands of intoxicated people from endangering others by getting behind the wheel, he said.
Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com