Monday, July 23, 2018

WI's deadly road-tripping comes with deferred repairs, higher speed limits

[Updated from 7/22/18] When I read about traffic fatalities in Wisconsin, I think Walker and his negligent legislative allies bear a share of the responsibility.

Bad enough that Wisconsin's pothole-Scotthole rutted roads are part of a continuing official GOP policy disregard that costs Wisconsin motorists an annual vehicle repair hit of nearly $640. Note that: 
*  The Walker wheel tax to your wallet is 20% more than the national average of $553 - - a not insubstantial bump. 
* You'd have to have seven kids to collect enough of Walker's gimmicky election-year $100 revenue rebate checks to fully cover your Walker wheel tax/Scottholes' cost. This year only.
Hence this text on those "Pardon our Scottholes" billboards 

popping up on Wisconsin's highways:
This trend that will continue because Walker's pet Foxconn project is further draining tens of millions of dollars from the transportation fund and will exacerbate transportation deficits statewide for a generation, at least.

But keep in mind that, as I have written since 2013 - - this summary post covers four years - - the same Wisconsin GOP leaders who dawdle fixing the road and bridge infrastructure, and who continue to pour new hundreds of millions into extra Interstate lanes for Foxconn also raised speed limits on major state highways in the face of warnings from experts in 2015 that the increase would boost the severity of highway crashes.
MADISON, Wis. (AAA) -- AAA Wisconsin is urging the Wisconsin State Senate to stop proposed legislation that would raise the maximum speed limit on rural highways to 70 mph due to concerns that higher speeds make it more difficult for vehicles to slow or stop in order to avoid a collision, and can increase the severity of resultant crashes. AAA is particularly alarmed about the potential implications for trucks, as their weight makes those considerations even more pressing... 
This is a concern for all drivers, as according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 8 in 10 truck crashes are multi-vehicle collisions, and over 70 percent of injuries and fatalities sustained in truck crashes are the occupants of the other vehicles. 
The evidence from neighboring states provides a clear warning: higher speed limits lead to higher rates of truck involvement in fatal crashes. 
Which is exactly what was enumerated in 2016, the AP reported.
Highway crashes spike after speed limits  rise 
In the year since the speed limit increase in June 2015, interstate fatalities rose 37 percent, injuries increased by 11 percent and the total number of accidents rose 12 percent.
On sections of the highway where speed limits remained at 65 mph, fatalities dropped by just under 2 percent and total accidents dipped 2 percent. 
As the pace continued into 2017, state officials cited factors including distracted driving, but did not discuss the speed limit boost. 


Anonymous said...

Why does everyone assume the additional deaths are due to the speed limit when the roads themselves are the sorst in America. Remember - some people can't afford to promptly repair cars. Others do not understand that the terrible roads destroy their auto's suspension creating a dangerous and deadly situation.

The highways that have 70 mph speed limits were designed and built for these speeds. My experience, and I put about 3,000 mile on Wisconsin roads and highways a month, is the 70 mph limit is not at all a safety issue. These highways are in relatively good shape compared to others.

The dangerous ones are poor the poorly maintained highways with 55 mph limits that just pound you and your car putting excessive wear on struts, springs, bearings, tie rods, alignment, tired, and the rubber bushings in the suspension.

You post is factual - I just don't get why many make Scottholes about damaging your vehicle and the increased speed limit about death. The Scottholes are killing more people and when you couple Scottholes with higher speed limits you cannot tease out and focus on just the extra 5 mph speed limit.

James Rowen said...

I think the increased speed limit has induced driving speeds far in excess of 70 mph. I drove on I-43 south from Sheboygan County to Milwaukee not long ago, and traffic in both lanes exceeded 80 mph. In the left lane, closer to 90, as I tracked it before slowing down. And ditto for traffic bolting out of Milwaukee County into Waukesha County. It obviously takes longer to stop the faster you are going, so collisions would become more severe. I'm not saying speed is the only factor leading to the data - - impaired driving, inattentive driving, etc. - - are all involved. And no one has campaign harder for tougher OWI penalties than have I. But it is the state than mandated the increased speed limit without keeping the roads in better repair. And the argument that we needed to do this because the other states had done it: well, let's do what MN is doing across the board!

Anonymous said...

James -- not trying to dismiss your post as it is accurate. Speeds are now typically 80 mph in the fast lane (I put on a lot of miles). 90 was not uncommon on I-43 to green bay years ago.

Talk to anyone that works at service centers like Farm & Fleet. They are extremely busy doing suspension work. Many people do not take cars in for repairs promptly if they can get around. The Scottholes destroy the rubber bushings, struts, and springs. At city driving speeds, this mostly creates rattles and a rough ride. At 80 mph this is not safe and very quickly wears tires down to their metal cords resulting in blow-outs.

I do not see 90s as often in the corridors you mention, but there were these types of wreckless drivers when the speed limit was 65. Let's face it -- drivers that routinely hang 20+ mph are going to drive at 90 whether the speed limit is 65 or 70. There is a point where most autos, especially those driving regularly on Scottholes, are just not comfortable to drive any faster with their rattling and rough suspensions.