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Wisconsin traffic deaths up 14 percent

Wisconsin traffic fatalities are up about 14 percent this year over 2011, according to state officials.

As of the end of May, 203 people had died in traffic accidents in the state this year, up from the 178 traffic deaths through the first five months of last year.

The figures indicate a reversal in traffic fatalities over the past few years.

"We thought we were making good progress," said a AAA spokesperson who referred to the historically low annual totals of Wisconsin traffic deaths in 2009, 2010 and 2011. "This year so far is not off to a good start comparatively."

The spokesperson said the rise in fatal crashes is likely due to a combination of two main factors: more people are on the road this year than in the last couple of years; and there is widespread evidence of an increase in reckless driving behaviors.

She said the mild winter allowed more people to get out and about and it also allowed motorcyclists to get a jump-start on the riding season.

AAA says there have been at least 28 motorcycle accident deaths this year.

Gas prices have also declined and the state's economy has picked up, meaning more people are out on Wisconsin's roads.

Officials said irresponsible driving behavior is also adding casualties to the state's traffic tally.

The AAA spokesperson said, "The age-old behaviors that we really need to change if we're going to end these preventable deaths every year" are familiar ones: people who don't wear seatbelts; people who drink and drive; people who speed; and people who pay more attention to their cellphones and other distractions than their car and the traffic around them.

We'll have more on the rising Wisconsin traffic fatality rate in our next post.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Traffic deaths in Wisconsin reverse course, jump 14%." Nicolle Levy, June 10, 2012

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