A total of 51 people died in 50 Wisconsin traffic crashes in January, according to preliminary statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Traffic deaths in January were two fewer than in January 2005 when 53 people were killed in 44 crashes. Traffic deaths in January 2006 also were seven fewer than the five-year average of 58 fatalities in 51 crashes for the month of January. Of the traffic deaths so far this year, 31 were drivers, 16 were passengers, one was a pedestrian and the roles of the other three fatalities is unknown at this time.
In terms of traffic deaths, the safest month of January since World War II occurred in 1982 with 31 fatalities. The deadliest month of January was in 1964 with 82 deaths.
The number of total fatalities during 2005 is now at 801. WisDOT revised the preliminary 2005 figure upward after receiving reports of individuals who died in January from injuries sustained in crashes during December. In the last five years, annual traffic fatality totals in Wisconsin have exceeded 800 three times. In the decade between 1990 and 1999, annual fatality totals never exceeded 800.
“This time of year, we hear and read media reports about slippery roads causing traffic crashes. However, road conditions really are not to blame,” said State Patrol Maj. Dan Lonsdorf, director of the Bureau of Transportation Safety. “Many wintertime crashes are caused by drivers who lost control of their vehicles or were unable to avoid a collision simply because they were going too fast when roads were slippery or visibility reduced. Even if you are at or slightly below the posted speed limit, you may be driving too fast for conditions. Driving at the posted speed limit generally is safe when the road is clear and dry but not when the road is slick or when visibility is limited by snow, rain or fog. Four-wheel drive and other heavy-duty vehicles are just as susceptible as other vehicles to the dangers of driving too fast for conditions. Because wintertime driving is so unpredictable, every occupant of a vehicle needs to buckle up to prevent needless deaths and injuries in crashes.”
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