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State ends 2013 with lowest number of traffic deaths in nearly 70 years

January 2, 2014

Wisconsin ended 2013 with 527 traffic fatalities, which is the lowest annual total since 1944 when 526 people  died in crashes, according to preliminary statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).

State traffic deaths in 2013 also were down 74 – approximately a 12 percent reduction – from 2012 when 601 people died and 44 fewer than the five-year average of 571 deaths.

"There is no single factor we can identify as the main reason for such a significant reduction in traffic fatalities," said WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb. "We know that the vast majority of serious crashes are caused by bad driving habits and irresponsible decisions. Therefore, motorists deserve a great deal of credit for saving their own lives and lives of others by slowing down, paying attention, buckling up and driving sober. In addition, WisDOT and its partners continue to invest funding and resources to improve traffic safety enforcement, education and engineering. These investments are clearly helping to prevent fatalities."

Traffic fatalities went down last year in every category, including motorcyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers and passengers. [See summary below]

The single biggest reduction was the number of passengers killed in crashes. Passenger fatalities fell by 41, from 124 in 2012 to 83 in 2013.

David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety, said, "The 33 percent reduction in passenger fatalities is primarily due to an increase in safety belt use. Multiple fatality crashes occur far more often when passengers are unbuckled. Safety belt use is at an all-time high in Wisconsin with approximately 82 percent of drivers and passengers buckling up. However, Wisconsin’s safety belt use rate still lags behind the national average of 86 percent and is far below neighboring states all of which have safety belt use rates of more than 90 percent."

Another significant decrease was motorcyclists’ fatalities, which declined from 116 deaths in 2012 to 84 last year, which was a 28 percent reduction).

"The unseasonably cool and wet spring shortened the motorcycle riding season, which likely had a role in the decrease. However, we also had an extremely busy summer riding season that included the Harley-Davidson anniversary events in Milwaukee," Pabst said. "We’re confident that our Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program helped reduce fatalities last year and will continue to have a positive effect on overall traffic safety. For example, our Transportable High End Rider Education Facility, known as THE REF, visited 50 events throughout the state last year to promote rider education and make motorists aware of the need to share the road with motorcycles."

Although the figures for alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2013 won’t be available for a few months, Pabst predicts that far too many traffic deaths in Wisconsin last year were due to impaired driving. "From 2008 to 2012, approximately 42 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes," he said.

To combat drunken driving, law enforcement agencies around the state teamed up for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) Task Forces using federal funding administered by WisDOT. Last year, 10 high-visibility OWI task forces to deter drunken driving operated in the following counties: Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Outagamie, Dane, Marinette, Brown, Winnebago, Manitowoc, Eau Claire and Burnett.

Overall, there were approximately 19,000 fewer traffic crashes in 2013 than in 2012.

"In addition to preventing injuries and deaths, a reduction in traffic crashes also saves money for all of us," Pabst said "Last year’s overall reduction in crashes saved about $237 million based on National Safety Council estimates for the economic impact of traffic crashes. This economic impact includes medical expenses, higher insurance premiums, lost wages, expenses for local government agencies, and other factors."

In assessing the dramatic decrease in traffic fatalities, Secretary Gottlieb said, "We are encouraged but certainly not complacent about our efforts to prevent traffic deaths and injuries. In Wisconsin, on average, more than one person per day is killed in a crash and more than 100 are injured. Traffic fatalities are more than just numbers and statistics. Each number was a person whose tragic death was mourned by family and friends. And we know that most traffic deaths could have been prevented if motorists had only slowed down, paid attention, driven sober and buckled up. We all must do everything we can to drive and ride responsibly, so we can one day attain zero preventable deaths in Wisconsin."

Visit the WisDOT web site for fatalities by county

* PRELIMINARY NUMBER: The statistics for 2013 will not be final until spring 2014 to account for delays in reporting, revisions in the cause of death, and deaths resulting from injuries suffered in crashes in late 2013.

   
Wisconsin traffic fatalities & fatal crashes since 1990
(Source: Wisconsin Traffic Crash Facts available on the WisDOT Web site at http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/crashfacts/index.htm
 
YEAR
FATALITIES
FATAL CRASHES
1990
763
672
1991
795
675
1992
645
579
1993
703
616
1994
706
616
1995
739
656
1996
759
656
1997
721
631
1998
709
628
1999
744
674
2000
801
718
2001
764
684
2002
805
723
2003
836
748
2004
784
714
2005
801
700
2006
712
659
2007
737
655
2008
587
542
2009
542
488
2010
 562
 517
2011
565
515
2012
601
535
 2013*
527
492
 
*Preliminary numbers

For more information, contact:
David Pabst, director, Wisconsin State Patrol Bureau of Transportation Safety
(608) 266-3048, david.pabst@dot.wi.gov

 

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