Traffic deaths on the rise both in the La Crosse area and statewide

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported 594 traffic deaths in 2021, which is the highest since 2017

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – More and more people in Wisconsin are dying from car crashes.

Preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation shows 594 people in the state died in 2021, which is the highest since 2017.

Experts point to the pandemic as to why fatalities are going up.

“This is part of a nationwide trend,” AAA-Wisconsin Director of Public Affairs Nick Jarmusz said. “It’s really, really alarming.”

Fatal crashes can result from a number of factors.

But Jarmusz says fewer people have been driving on the roads these past two years, so people are driving faster.

Therefore, many of the deadly crashes are the result of speeding.

“Unfortunately, too many of them are not driving as safely as they can or should,” Jarmusz said.

And he says teen drivers are most likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

“Because of the inexperience that they have behind the wheel, and their greater likelihood to engage in unsafe behaviors,” Jarmusz said.

DOT data shows eight people in La Crosse County died from a car crash last year, which is the highest since 2018.

La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Mark Patterson says fatal crashes usually go up during this time of year.

Winter weather and the holiday season play a role.

“People having time off not having to get up and go to work,” Patterson said. “They get more free time to themselves.”

Jarmusz says last year did not set a record for fatal crashes.

But he says it’s troubling when the trend keeps getting worse, especially when we appeared to make progress.

“That’s really why it’s so frustrating to see that trend line turn around right now, especially during the pandemic,” Jarmusz said.

According to the DOT, 59 of the total traffic deaths last year occurred in counties in the News 8 Now viewing area. That is up from 56 in 2020, and 37 in 2019.

AAA is urging drivers to take precautions.

That includes:

  • Slowing down
  • Wearing a seatbelt
  • Avoiding distractions
  • Driving sober
  • Being well-rested
  • Sharing the road