Thursday’s Beltline crash the 20th in May – up 4 times from May 2020 – Why?

MADISON, Wis. – A crash on the Beltline Thursday afternoon marked the 20th in May, a number law enforcement who patrols the area fears will continue to grow.

A number of factors, including construction as well as more people returning to a daily commute, are easy to explain. Some factors, however, aren’t.

There was an obvious reduction in traffic enforcement during the pandemic because we reduced the number of discretionary contacts to try to reduce the spread of the pandemic,” said Dane County Deputy Sheriff Steven Mueller.  “There were some obvious results of that, including increased speed, reduced seatbelt usage, stuff like that. Those statistics won’t be known for a long time, but we’re seeing the results in crashes.”

Earlier this week, an early morning crash forced all westbound lanes on the Beltline to close.  

That was just inattentive driving,” Mueller said. 

Out of the 20 crashes along the Beltline in May, nearly all have come in the stretch of Highway 12 currently under construction. Most involve speeding. 1/4 involve a teen driver.

There have been 593 crashes so far this year in Dane County, resulting in five deaths and 189 injuries. While those numbers are on pace to be lower than prior to the pandemic, one thing is certainly not lower – speed.

It’s all over the state, it’s all over the region, it’s all over the country. Speeds are up,” said David Pabst, Director of Transportation Safety and Technical Services for WisDOT. “It’s all over the state, it’s all over the region, it’s all over the country. Speeds are up.”

While accidents on the interstate have been fatal as recently as last week, the Beltline has avoided such a serious crash this year. Mueller says, however, he’s worried that could change if driving tendencies do not.

Give the highway workers on the Beltline a break,” he said. “Care for them. They have families that they want to go home with and enjoy life as well. Think about them when you’re driving past these orange barrels and take care of them”