In a year where passenger traffic has been down significantly because of the pandemic, expectations were for a lower number of crashes and fatalities. Instead, crash rates and fatalities are higher than they were year to date in 2019, in Wisconsin, the Midwest and nationwide, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Two top DOT officials discuss this phenomenon and possible contributing factors in a recent “Transportation Connects Us” podcast.

“This data is quite concerning, considering that through 2019, and early 2020, we were heading toward our goal of zero in Wisconsin,” WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said in a news release. “In conversations with our neighboring states, as well as states across the country, we’ve learned this situation is not unique to Wisconsin.”

“Sadly, we’re seeing an increase in multiple risky behaviors by driver and passengers,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “There’s an increase in speeding, alcohol and drug use and a decrease in seat belt use. We’ve already surpassed the 2019 total fatalities caused by distracted driving.”

The podcast also includes safety initiatives that are in place at the department, many of which involve partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and are publicized in advance.