Highway crashes in Wisconsin spike after speed limit rises

Posted at 4:33 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-23 17:50:46-04

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Fatalities, injuries and accidents are up in Wisconsin in the year since the state raised the speed limit to 70 mph on most interstate highways.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that higher speed limits aren't the only thing that might be contributing to those increases, but they haven't been seen on state highways that mostly stayed at 65 mph.

In the year since the speed limit increase in June 2015, interstate fatalities rose 37 percent, injuries increased by 11 percent and the total number of accidents rose 12 percent.

On sections of the highway where speed limits remained at 65 mph, fatalities dropped by just under 2 percent and total accidents dipped 2 percent.

"Crash forces increase exponentially. The difference between a 65 mph and 70 mph crash may not seem like a lot but it's much more of an impact," said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA Wisconsin.

But state law enforcement officials said the new speed limit appears to be working with few issues.

"Do we have accidents? Sure, we do. But I think they're more to do with radical behavior of the driver rather than the speed limit. They're usually impaired in some way," Gaffney said.

Inattentive driving has rapidly increased as smartphones make their way into more hands, said Wisconsin State Patrol Director of Transportation Safety David Pabst.

The newspaper notes that since distracted and impaired driving as well as speed are frequently the causes of accidents, it's not clear that the higher speed limit is the reason behind the increase. And recent U.S. Census statistics show that the overall number of motorists has increase due to more teenage drivers on the road.