Despite the distracted driving epidemic that has been plaguing America's roads in recent years, car accidents and traffic fatalities have been declining steadily in Wisconsin and across the nation, recent research shows.
According to a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, traffic-related deaths in Wisconsin have dropped to the level seen during World War II, when overall driving was substantially reduced by war, fuel rationing and other factors, contributing to a marked decline in accidents.
Wisconsin car accident trends
Prior to World War II, during the 1930s, traffic deaths in Wisconsin occurred at an average of about 740 per year. During the war, the number of fatalities fell sharply, reaching their lowest point in 1943 when there were just 417 traffic deaths statewide. After the war, as soldiers returned home and fuel became more readily available, fatal car accidents increased nearly threefold, peaking at 1,168 in 1972, the Journal Sentinel reported.
As vehicle manufacturers began to focus more on safety, traffic deaths once again declined during the 1970s and 1980s. The recent economic downturn has further fueled the trend as financial concerns have once again caused people to drive less during the past several years; since 2005, Wisconsin traffic deaths have remained relatively steady at an annual average of about 571 fatalities.
Numerous factors contribute to safety trend
Now that the economy is on the mend, people are driving more - but experts say there has not yet been a corresponding rise in Wisconsin car accidents. While it remains unclear exactly why this is the case, the Journal Sentinel identified several likely factors behind the trend, including:
- Increased seatbelt use among Wisconsin drivers.
- The implementation of graduated driver's license laws that place restrictions on novice drivers.
- Improved emergency medical response to traffic accidents.
- Better road safety design.
Improvements in vehicle safety technology have also played a likely role in reducing car accidents, with vehicle manufacturers continuously adopting and improving safety features like airbags and crumple zones.
The future of high-tech traffic safety
In the future, many experts predict, new technology is likely to play an increasingly important role in traffic safety. For example, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been conducting tests on a new car-to-car communication system that allows vehicles to trade information with one another over wireless networks and alert drivers to potential collision hazards. The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that the technology be installed in all new vehicles manufactured in the United States.
Meanwhile, research is also being done on other innovations that would allow vehicles to detect and respond to other potential crash risks, such as pedestrians or motorcycles that may be a on a collision course with the vehicle. Some of these systems are designed not only to identify the safety hazard and issue a warning, but also to automatically apply the brakes or take other evasive action if the driver fails to respond.
Legal remedies for Wisconsin crash victims
When traffic accidents occur in Wisconsin, the law provides an opportunity for injured parties or their surviving family members to seek monetary compensation for the lost wages, medical bills and other financial consequences of the crash. People who are interested in exploring their legal options after a Wisconsin crash are encouraged to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in their area.