For the first time since 1943, Wisconsin made it through an entire year with less than 500 traffic deaths. Preliminary figures released by the state Department of Transportation on Friday show 491 people were killed on Wisconsin roads last year, a seven percent drop from 2013 when 527 people were killed and 68 below the five year average for the state.
Agency officials say there are many likely factors that contributed to the continued drop. DOT spokesman Steve Olson says an increase in law enforcement efforts to reduce speeding and drunk driving, along with improvements in highway safety features likely helped.
An increase in compliance with state seat belt laws is also believed to have helped bring the rate down. The DOT say surveys show 85 percent of drivers and passengers were buckling up in 2014, the best rate ever for the state. Still, Olson says Wisconsin continues to lag behind the national average and neighboring states when it comes to the number of residents wearing a seat belt. He says people simply need to realize that driving is the most dangerous thing they do on a daily basis, and that it really is simple to just remember to fasten a seat belt before the car starts moving.
While Olson says 491 traffic deaths is a dramatic improvement, he still notes that any number of deaths above zero is something the state should continue to see as a priority that needs to be addressed.