Traffic fatalities increase in Wisconsin for the fourth year in a row

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting communities nationwide.

“People are trying to express their freedoms,” said David Pabst, director of transportation safety.

In the state of Wisconsin, freedom means heading out on the road.

“You know over the last couple of years, people have gotten out more with the pandemic so there’s just more traffic out on the roads,” said Onalaska Chief of Police Charles Ashbeck.

More traffic has led to a higher number of traffic fatalities. Traffic related crashes resulted in 397 deaths statewide.

“People are speeding, they’re distracted, and they’re not wearing their seatbelts,” Pabst said.

Pabst says one of the main causes of a crash is reckless driving.

“Not having regard for their fellow drivers. It’s just, they wanna get where they’re gonna go and they’re going with their foot on the pedal and they’re going extremely fast,” Pabst said.

This year, law enforcement have issued 17 reckless driving citations in La Crosse and five in Onalaska. Onalaska Chief of Police Charles Ashbeck says the consequences of reckless driving are high. This year, according to the La Crosse Police Department, there have been three traffic related deaths.

“It would take far fewer citations for you to lose your license with reckless driving,” Ashbeck said.

Chief Ashbeck says he’s also seen an increase in distracted driving.

“We have accidents because somebody tipped over their soda and reached down on the ground to get that soda and ran into something,” Ashbeck said.

If you’re on your cell phone, Pabst says you’re four times more likely to get into a crash.

“It’s just second nature for it to be in our hands and it’s so dangerous to have it in your hand while driving,” he said.

Pabst says in most cases, deadly crashes can be avoided, as long as people keep their eyes on the road.

“Come on, just buckle up, slow your roll, and pay attention, it’s really easy,” he said.

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