The Department of Transportation said the number of deaths on the road doubled the week of Thanksgiving compared to last year, with the most fatalities over the weekend following the holiday.
From Nov. 24 through Nov. 30, there were six fatal crashes resulting in eight deaths across the state. On Saturday and Sunday alone, seven of those people were killed in five wrecks, the most deadly being an accident on Highway 14 in Rock County. Three people died in that crash, including an eight-year-old girl.
Contrary to last week, state statistics show fatalities are down 14% from this time last year to today. At the start of December of last year, 574 people had died in wrecks across Wisconsin that year. This year, we’ve seen 495 deaths resulting from car accidents.
Dane County isn’t seeing the same downward trend. There have been 34 fatalities so far this year on Dane County roads, compared to 32 this time last year.
Sgt. Michelle Shelhamer, with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said some of it has to do with the number of people living in the county.
“Certainly, more people, more cars,” Shelhamer explained. “Dane County has always ranked usually within number one, two, or three regarding the most fatalities in the state of Wisconsin, and a lot of that has does have to do with the fact that we are more heavily populated.”
Shelhamer said Dane County is consistently in the top three counties for high traffic fatalities. So far this year, it falls second only to Milwaukee County.
“Traffic enforcement is certainly something we encourage our people to be out there doing and making a priority,” Shelhamer said, “but when the other calls for service come in, then they have to weigh, of course, being out there writing tickets versus responding to those other calls.”
Shelhamer said one of the other contributing factors to the number of fatalities staying constant could be a lack of grant money. Tens of thousands of dollars were suspended earlier this year, all money that was spent on seat belt patrol, speed, and reckless driving on the Beltline Highway.
“Why the traffic grants were so vitally important to us is it allowed those deputies to be freed up and concentrate on nothing but traffic enforcement,” Shelhamer said.
Shelhamer said the sheriff’s office did receive grant money to patrol for drunk driving.