Traffic deaths were down across Wisconsin last year, transportation officials say, but here in La Crosse County the number has nearly tripled.
In 2011, 17 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the county, up from six fatalities in 2010.
A Wisconsin state trooper told WXOW that a combination of factors contributed to the increase.
He said drivers can do three things that will help eliminate most traffic fatalities:
- Don't drink and drive
- Don't speed
- Don't forget to buckle up your seatbelt
"Those are the major three things you can do," he said.
New statistics out back the trooper's advice. About 20 percent of all people killed on Wisconsin streets last year died in an alcohol-related crash.
More than 2,300 were killed or injured in an alcohol-related car crash last year, with 55 of those here in La Crosse County.
Wisconsin legislators are acting on the news, too, introducing bills designed to toughen drunk-driving laws.
State Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse said Wisconsin has been too slow to act aggressively against drunk drivers in the past. She said she's ready to throw her support behind bills introduced in December that will arm law enforcement and the criminal courts with new tools with which to battle drunken driving.
One bill proposes to make all drunk drivers install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles after a conviction for OWI. The devices prevent drivers with alcohol in their systems from starting and operating their vehicles.
Another bill would make fourth OWI offenses felonies.
Yet another new piece of legislation mandates that all vehicles used in drunken driving violations be impounded; even those vehicles used in first-time OWI offenses.
Clearly, these laws are worth examining as part of the effort to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by drunk drivers.
Source: WXOW: "La Crosse County Traffic Fatalities on the Rise," Jan. 4, 2012