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City of Milwaukee on pace to break traffic death record in 2023

By Shaun Gallagher,


Starting off strong is typically a good thing. In a race, it creates space between your opponent so you can finish first. However, the City of Milwaukee is leading the pack in an area it doesn't want to.

With a day to spare, Milwaukee has matched the record for vehicle deaths set in 2017 through the first five months of the year.

Thirty-one people have died in vehicle crashes in the City of Milwaukee as of May 30, matching the number set in 2017 which is the highest since at least 1994 according to data from the WisTransPortal .

“We need to remain vigilant throughout this year,” Robert Schneider, Professor of Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee said.

Monday marked the beginning of what’s known as the “100 deadliest days.” According to Wisconsin State Patrol, the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day typically results in more deaths and injuries on the road. With 31 deaths on the roadways already, Schneider says the next 100 days could spell trouble for people on the streets.

“It’s important to know, there is some variation that occurs,” Schneider said. “Every single death is tragic. These are fairly small numbers statistically. They do go up and down on a fairly unpredictable basis, given those small numbers.”

According to Milwaukee Police data, through May of 2017, 31 people were killed in crashes. By the end of that year, 70 people had been killed which set a record at the time.

However, that record did not last long. The City of Milwaukee had more traffic fatalities in 2020 (88), 2021 (71) and 2022 (87) as compared to 2017. But in those three years, there were fewer traffic fatalities through the first five months as compared to the same time frame in 2017.

Schneider says according to data on WisTransPortal, from 2002 to 2021, 38.5 percent of all traffic fatalities in the City of Milwaukee occur between January and May. By that metric, the city is on pace for 82 deaths, which would not break the record of 88 deaths set in 2020. However, Schneider says, that’s dependent on what happens during the 100 deadliest days.

“Summer typically has some of our highest numbers of fatalities and serious injuries,” Schneider said. “We do not have to break a record. We can make a choice as a community now to really double down on our efforts and make this into one of the safest years if we make some improvements during these summer months. That will be crucial towards those year-end totals.”

Schneider points to important infrastructure improvements happening all over the city to try and change driving behaviors and increased enforcement for people breaking the rule of the road. But the quickest way to increase safety on the streets is by the person with two hands on the wheel, according to AAA.

“If people are driving faster and they’re not buckled up, that’s a double whammy,” Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs for AAA said.

According to Milwaukee Police data, 78.2 percent of vehicle occupants who have died in crashes since 2017 were either not wearing a seatbelt or it was unknown if they had restraints. So, no matter how far you’re traveling on the roads this summer, whether it’s to the supermarket around the corner or the water park in the Dells, Jarmusz says buckling up is crucial.

“Most crashes do actually happen closer to home than on longer road trips,” Jarmusz said. “So even though you may not be going very far, or you’re not planning on getting on to an arterial or an interstate, it’s still important to buckle up.”

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