APPLETON, Wis. — Traffic fatalities appear to be decreasing in Wisconsin, in large part because of a drop in motorcyclists' deaths, traffic officials said.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said 396 people had died in crashes as of Sept. 30 — 80 fewer than at the same time last year. In all, there were 601 traffic deaths in 2012, Post-Crescent Media reported (http://post.cr/GUVE85 ).
David Pabst, the DOT's director of the bureau of transportation safety, said the decrease in motorcycle deaths is a major reason for the overall decline in fatalities. According to statistics compiled Oct. 7, 72 motorcyclists had died in crashes this year, compared to 96 at that time last year. Four motorcycle passengers had died, down from 14 the year before.
"Clearly, our goal is zero deaths, but this is really encouraging to have (motorcycle-related deaths) drop so low," Pabst said.
He credited the decrease to good weather for riding and motorcyclists taking safety precautions. Three-fourths of the motorcyclists who died last year weren't wearing helmets, Pabst said.
Other factors contributing to the drop in deaths include better highway engineering, improved vehicle designs, driver education programs, and improvements in emergency response and crash-scene management, said Pabst and Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Nick Scorcio.
"I think a lot of people now realize that speed kills and inattentive driving can kill you or somebody else," Scorcio said.