Traffic deaths in Wisconsin fell 12 percent last year, a drop that state transportation officials partly credit to safety and awareness programs that resonate with younger drivers.
There were 530 road fatalities last year, down from 601 road deaths the previous year, Post-Crescent Media reported Thursday.
“It’s a good trend,” said David Pabst, who directs the Bureau of Transportation Safety in the state Department of Transportation’s. “Now we have to hang on to it.”
The figures were helped by a 28 percent decrease in motorcycle deaths, from 116 to 84, Pabst said. One factor may have been especially bad weather last year that kept motorcycle riders off the roads, he said.
He also credited safety campaigns that preach against drunken driving and distracted driving, saying people seem to be getting the message.
Capt. Todd Christie, of the Winnebago County sheriff’s department, said teens, especially, seem to be taking safety more seriously. He said their generation has been raised under that state’s seatbelt law, so young people are increasingly likely to use seatbelts.
“I think the biggest thing is the driver education aspect,” Christie said.
Law enforcement officials have begun targeting young drivers with safety programs designed to teach them about unsafe practices such as texting, eating, interacting with friends or fiddling with the radio. Erica Geschrei, a Winnebago County sheriff’s deputy, said she regularly visits high schools to tell students to avoid distractions while driving.
“It seems to resonate with them, but over time it fades away,” she said.
She said she hopes to expand the effort to include presenters from a broad range of backgrounds, including hospital and health department workers and school personnel. The aim is to reinfoce the message in as many ways as possible.
“We want to constantly keep reminding them,” Geschrei said. “Every year, we have new young drivers.”
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