Crashes increase after Wisconsin adopts 70 mph speed limit

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Since Wisconsin’s speed limit switched to 70 mph last year the Department of Transportation says there's been a spike in crashes and deaths.

The Eau Claire State Patrol Office says while the increased speed on the highway may play a role in the spike it is certainly not the only contributing factor.

Sergeant Michael Marcks says distracted and impaired driving are often causes of crashes and injuries.

“It's a lot of factors that come into play when we're talking about crashes and fatalities,” said Marcks. “So, speed can play a factor in many crashes but so does, distracted driving, impaired driving, lack of seatbelt use, following too close and also the driving behaviors that everyone possesses can create a recipe for dangerous situations.”

As a retired EMS Debbie Ward says she doesn't see the 70 mph limit as the main culprit for highway deaths.

“We found working on ambulance crews going 60 or 70 mph wouldn't have made any difference as far as the life expectancy of the person in the crash. It did depend on whether they were wearing seatbelts and what they were doing at the time of the incident,” said Ward.

Since the speed increased in June of last year the DOT says interstate deaths have increased by 37%, injuries by 11% and the total number of crashes on the interstate have risen by 12%.

Marcks said of the “434 fatalities total, including drivers, passengers, motorcyclist, pedestrians, that we have had this year 28 of those have occurred on the interstate. So, in perspective the interstate is a very safe place to drive.”

However the state patrol says since driving is one of the most dangerous things we do every day to make sure and use common sense.

“Just having good driving behaviors will help reduced the number of crashes and the numbers of injuries and fatalities we see on an annual basis,” added Marcks.

The state patrol also says as it gets later in the year and it gets darker earlier drivers should expect more car and deer crashes.

The department says at that point 70 mph may be too fast, especially as snowy weather comes in to play, and you should use your best judgement on the roads.

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