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County car crashes lower, says DOT

A Department of Transportation traffic specialist told the Marathon County Infrastructure Committee on Thursday that fatal county car crashes are down this year, bucking a statewide trend.

Randy Wiessinger told committee members that Marathon County has suffered three fatalities this year--one in May, two in June--and was on a slower pace than last year when the county had eight fatalities by Aug. 1. Wiessinger said total county traffic accidents, including deer crashes, were lower this year than in 2019. Last year, there were 1,824 accidents by Aug. 1; this year, there have been 1,278 by the same date.

The traffic expert said Marathon County was seeing more drug and alcohol related crashes than last year. This year, there have been 76 such crashes. Last year at this time, there were only 67.

The DOT officer said the state was seeing a different pattern of traffic accidents. With the COVID-19 pandemic, he said people were driving less, but, were driving faster when behind the wheel.

“Speeds have increased dramatically,” he said. “They have gone through the roof.”

Wiessinger said that there have been 303 fatalities across Wisconsin as of Aug. 2. That compares with 287 fatalities at the same time last year.

He said last year the statewide injuries from car crashes were down compared to last year. In 2019, there were 22,407 traffic injuries as of Aug. 2. This year there have been 16,969 traffic injuries by the same date.

Wiessinger said the top five locations for traffic crashes in Marathon County were all in the City of Wausau.

Marathon County Sheriff’s Department Highway Safety Coordinator Lt. Ted Knoeck on Friday credited statefunded speeding and seat belt enforcement grants for the county’s below average fatalities and crashes.

“I believe we are seeing fewer crashes because of these grants,” he said.