Improved traffic safety has been one of the great public health
success stories of the last few decades. As recently as 1980, the rate
of traffic deaths in the U.S. per mile traveled was over three times
what it is today. This improvement is largely attributable to safer
vehicles and roads, less impaired driving, more effective law
enforcement and better emergency medical care.
But we still have a long way to go. Last year over 600 people died
on Wisconsin roads, and many of those deaths were preventable. This
month's Connector newsletter discusses some of the things we are doing
at WisDOT to move toward our goal of zero preventable traffic deaths:
"Zero in Wisconsin."
WisDOT announces 'Summer of Safety' initiatives to prevent traffic
Summer often is the deadliest season on Wisconsin roads. On
average, August is the state's highest traffic fatality month followed
by July and September. June is the fourth highest.
Preventing serious injury and fatal crashes is particularly
challenging in warm weather months as traffic volumes and vehicle
speeds increase. To help meet this challenge, WisDOT will soon begin
enforcement, education, and engineering initiatives to make the
upcoming months a "Summer of Safety" in Wisconsin.
The WisDOT Summer of Safety initiatives will include:
Approximately 400 law enforcement agencies throughout
Wisconsin participating in the annual The Click It or Ticket
safety belt enforcement mobilization from May 20 to June 2 backed
by a public awareness and education campaign.
Statewide efforts to combat drunken driving such as the new
Zero In Wisconsin "Drive Sober" mobile app for smart phones and
the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement campaign from Aug.
16 to Sept. 2. WisDOT also is working with local law enforcement
to deploy multi-jurisdictional OWI (operating while intoxicated)
Task Forces. As part of their high-visibility enforcement, OWI
task force efforts often are announced in advance for a deterrent
Aerial enforcement by the State Patrol Air Support Unit, which
will fly approximately 80 missions in 2013 to crackdown on
speeding, aggressive driving and other traffic violations
particularly in construction work zones.
Rumble strip installation to reduce the number and severity of
roadway departure crashes. Other engineering safety features will
be implemented such as wider or more visible pavement markings,
tree removal in clear zones, high-friction road surface
treatments, median cable barriers, passing lanes and dynamic curve
WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb has made the reduction of traffic
fatalities and injuries a critical priority for the entire department.
Preventing traffic crashes is a key component of the WisDOT Mobility,
Accountability, Preservation, Safety and Service (MAPSS) Performance
Improvement Program. "Our department has been at the forefront of
statewide traffic safety efforts for many years," Secretary Gottlieb
says. "Based on our past successes, we're ready and eager to do even
more to prevent needless deaths and injuries on all Wisconsin
MAPSS unites the department around safety goals
Because safety is one of the strategic goal areas of the entire
agency, it becomes everyone's responsibility — from traffic
enforcement to highway maintenance and design, to driver education and
licensing. MAPSS provides an agency-wide spotlight on measuring
performance in safety.
Safety measures identify areas for improvement
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has collected
detailed transportation safety statistics for many years. Among other
things, the department uses this data to target safety improvements
and safety program funding to the neediest areas.
In Wisconsin, there have been steady improvements in decreasing the
rate of traffic injuries and the number of serious injury crashes
since 2007. Despite this, there has seen a very unfortunate increase
in traffic fatalities since 2011. The MAPSS program tracks not only
traffic fatalities, which mirror the department's ultimate goal of
zero preventable deaths in Wisconsin, but also measures several
factors that influence safety outcomes:
seat belt use
aerial speed enforcement
safety and weight enforcement
for commercial motor vehicles
There are a number of factors that influence traffic crashes and
fatalities, including seasonal fluctuations and the economy, but
safety data shows that approximately 90 percent of traffic fatalities
can be related to human behavior.
One area where Wisconsin needs to improve is seat belt use.
Approximately 50 percent of traffic fatalities in Wisconsin are
unbelted. Because wearing a seat belt is a personal decision, these
deaths are largely preventable. The MAPSS program, especially the
drill-down features of the new Internet visualizations, highlights
efforts to reach groups with the highest risk. For example, seat belt
use has been disproportionately low among pick-up truck drivers and
passengers. As part of a High Risk Population Countermeasure Program,
the Division of State Patrol's Bureau of Transportation Safety (BOTS)
directs safety belt grant funds to counties and municipalities with
the highest rates of pick-up truck vehicle registration.
Using data to allocate scarce resources and demonstrate impacts
Each year, the department awards over 600 grants to counties and
local law enforcement agencies for highway safety outreach. In
allocating these funds, it assesses a variety of metrics to identify
the counties with the highest need for safety improvements. Staff
calculates a weighted score that accounts for crash rates, fatalities,
serious injuries and property damage crashes, and compiles a targeting
list for alcohol, speeding and seat belt outreach. By basing grant
allocations on safety data, BOTS helps to ensure that it spends public
funds in the most effective, efficient way possible.
High-quality safety data can also be used to demonstrate the impact
of outreach efforts on safety outcomes. In cases where local forces
achieve significant reductions in crash rates, they may be taken off
the state priority list for grant funds based on their performance
The department hopes its data will help demonstrate the impact of
new interventions to discourage distracted driving behavior. Recent
legislation in Wisconsin prohibits nearly all cell phone use for
novice drivers and prohibits texting for all drivers. It's too early
to tell how effective these approaches will prove, but through the
MAPSS program and integrated crash data collection, WisDOT may be able
to quantify results over time.
New MAPSS measures track safety enforcement activities
Two new MAPSS safety measures made their debut in April 2013:
aerial speed enforcement deployments and safety and weight enforcement
Approximately 30 percent of traffic fatalities in Wisconsin are
speed related. This has motivated the department to launch a new MAPSS
measure focusing on speed enforcement. Starting in April 2013, the
program is reporting the number of Division of State Patrol Aerial
Support Unit (ASU) deployments for speed enforcement, including the
number of speeding citations and warnings resulting from those
deployments. As pilots gain more experience during speed enforcement
deployments, they become more efficient and communicate with ground
officers more effectively.
During the first quarter of 2013, the ASU had three deployments,
logged a top speed of 95 mph, and coordinated over 115 contacts
between ground officers and speeders. The department plans to conduct
at least 80 deployments in 2013, with the majority taking place during
the summer months.
A new collaborative effort with WisDOT's Division of Transportation
System Development (DTDS) will use traffic monitors to identify
corridors with the highest incidence of speeding and target those
areas for deployments. DTSD will average travel speeds before and
after deployments to measure the effect of enforcement activities.
The second new MAPSS safety measure is Safety and Weight
Enforcement Facility (SWEF) operations. While this measure is
primarily aimed at helping to prevent serious crashes involving
commercial motor vehicles, the SWEFs also play a role in preservation
and mobility. Overweight vehicles are a burden for roadways, and can
precipitate damage to the state's transportation infrastructure. When
incidents occur, they affect traffic mobility. WisDOT has a role to
play in facilitating the movement of freight to promote a thriving
economy. The SWEFs ensure a level playing field for freight providers
by enforcing weight regulations.
To the extent possible, road construction activity across Wisconsin
will be put on hold over the upcoming three-day Memorial Day weekend.
Those heading out on the highways over the holiday should expect peak
travel periods to occur between noon and 8 p.m. Friday (5/24) and
during the same time period on Monday (5/27). Travelers should buckle
up, be especially alert in construction zones, and check the
511 Travel Information System for
the latest on any incidents or delays.
Title and register your vehicle with new online eMV Public system
Spring is a time when many people sell their old vehicle and buy
something newer. The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles says anytime
you sell or trade in your vehicle, you can transfer your license
plates to your new vehicle as long as it's a vehicle within the same
general class. If you sell your vehicle privately, always remove your
license plates — they belong to you, not the vehicle. To legally
operate a newly-purchased vehicle, the new owner has two business days
to get their vehicle properly titled and registered. Before
heading to a DMV customer service center, motorists should consider
using the new online "eMV Public" system
that allows people to title and register a vehicle and even print off
a temporary license plate.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation's MAPSS Performance Improvement
Program reviews performance measures for five key goal areas that
guide us in achieving our mission — mobility, accountability,
preservation, safety and service. To check out the latest online
reports, simply click on the MAPSS logo.
The WisDOT Connector is produced by the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation.