Report: Despite Less Driving, Auto Fatalities Have Risen in Wisconsin

December 2, 2020

Auto fatalities are up in Wisconsin despite there being fewer people on the road due to the coronavirus pandemic, a report released on Dec. 1 by the Wisconsin Policy Forum found.

The report examined state crash data from March 14 through July 31.

While all crashes and injuries were down compared with the same period in 2019, crashes where someone was killed and the number of crash-related fatalities were up. Fatal crashes increased by more than 17% and total crash fatalities grew by 20%, the report found.

At the same time, alcohol-involved crashes were up 50%, drug-involved crashes grew by 46% and speeding-involved crashes were up by 52%, the report said.

Other Midwestern states have also seen increases in auto fatalities this year, but Wisconsin was out of step with nationwide trends, the report said.

The increases came during a time when far fewer people were on the road. Preliminary data for the second quarter of 2020 shows that vehicle miles traveled in Wisconsin was down more than 26% compared with 2019.

The reasons for the spikes are not full understood, the report said, but “the stress and isolation associated with the pandemic as well as the rise in unemployment may have contributed to increased levels of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Fewer cars on the road, and reduced law enforcement, may have also led people to drive faster, the report said.

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