Low gas prices could be factor in increased traffic deaths

Low gas prices could be factor in increased traffic deaths

Recently released Wisconsin Department of Transportation statistics show a 32 percent increase in traffic fatalities in February compared with the same month last year.

Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Tim Redman said a number of factors could be behind the increase in deaths. He said more cars on the road, fueled, in part, by low gas prices in 2016 compared with 2015, could be a reason for the increase.

“We can attribute that to maybe low gas prices,” Redman said. “Recently, people were paying $1.50 or so per gallon of gas compared to a few years ago when it was near $4.”

Redman said he doesn’t believe the increase of Wisconsin’s maximum speed limit to 70 miles per hour has been much of a factor, if at all.

View an interactive map of Wisconsin traffic fatalities in 2016

“It wasn’t as dramatic as I’d thought it would be,” Redman said. “Once people kind of got adjusted to it, including us, I haven’t seen any statistics suggesting that the increased speed limit by five miles per hour has led to any more crashes or fatalities.”

Redman said it’s up to drivers to be safer on the road.

“A lot of our fatalities are very preventable,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the driver…obeying the speed limit, slowing down, don’t be in such a hurry, paying attention, driving sober, wearing their seat belt.”

Drunken driving is a cause of 36 percent of fatal crashes, according to WisDOT. Redman said seeing reports of people with a double-digit number of OWI convictions frustrates him and many others in law enforcement.

“You see it like once every few weeks where somebody’s arrested for ninth, 10th, 11th or more OWI,” Redman said. “Myself and probably other people who read or see that probably say ‘why is this person not still in prison?’ are we going to give them a chance to pick up No. 11 or 12 or kill somebody?”

Wisconsin leads the nation in drunken driving. According to WisDOT, 26 percent of Wisconsin residents have admitted to driving drunk in the previous year. 

Click here for a map of 2016 traffic fatalities in Wisconsin.