The State of Driver Safety in Western Wisconsin

The view driving through a small town in Wisconsin
The State of Driver Safety in Western Wisconsin
The view driving through a small town in Wisconsin

Statewide vehicle accident statistics can be misleading, depending on where you live. When ranking the 72 counties in Wisconsin for car crashes, Milwaukee County comes in number 1. While driver safety in Milwaukee is important, it doesn't mean much for drivers negotiating roads in Hudson, Eau Claire. Here in the western half of the state we have our own concerns when it comes to car accidents.

How Western Counties Stack Up

According to numbers supplied by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, here are the rankings for some western Wisconsin counties in terms of average car accidents per year:

  • Eau Claire: 13th
  • Saint Croix: 16th
  • Chippewa: 27th
  • Dunn: 31st
  • Douglas: 36th
  • Barron: 38th
  • Polk: 43rd
  • Washburn: 60th
  • Burnett: 66th

In terms of total number of yearly car accidents, these counties range from 2,297 in Eau Claire to 227 in Burnett. The rankings track fairly closely to population, with Barron and Polk County ranking slightly better than expected and Eau Claire and Sant Croix County ranking slightly worse.

Different Driver Safety Issues

The statistics do not differentiate between fatal accidents and non-fatal accidents. As we've discussed before, rural roads are home to a disproportionate number of deadly crashes. There are several reasons for this, but the point is that drivers in New Richmond face a different set of concerns than drivers in Milwaukee. When it comes to messages about driver safety, it is only natural that the emphasis in western Wisconsin should be slightly different than in urban centers.

A Peculiar Driving Phenomenon

Have you ever come upon a town and felt like you were crawling through it, even though you were driving the speed limit? Suddenly, 30 mph feels like a slow walk. There is a name for this phenomenon. It's called velocitation. It happens when you go from driving fast for a long time, to driving at a slower pace. It is common in more rural areas because the distance between towns is longer and often involves lightly patrolled, lightly trafficked roads where drivers feel comfortable driving fast. When you get into town, it is easy to continue going far too fast because your sense of speed is off. The cure for velocitation is to check your speedometer regularly while you drive to make sure your eyes aren't fooling you.

Issues like velocitation and highway hypnosis are things that affect drivers in this part of the state. It is important to be aware of them in order to stay safe behind the wheel.