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Report: Auto Deaths Among Black Wisconsinites Have Risen Dramatically

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Center for Disease Control WONDER Database
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Between 2011 and 2017, auto deaths for Black Wisconsinites nearly tripled while deaths for White Wisconsinites decreased slightly.

Not long ago, black Wisconsinites were less likely than their white and Latino counterparts to die in a car crash.

But a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum titled, "Wrong Way: Black Auto Deaths Up In Wisconsin", found that over the last decade, the number of black people dying from car accidents in Wisconsin each year has doubled. At the same time, the number of white Wisconsinites dying in accidents has substantially decreased.

Mark Sommerhauser is the communications director and policy researcher at the Wisconsin Policy Forum and the lead author of the report. 

This report was born out of a 2019 report about the decline of life expectency in Wisconsin, which has been tied to increased deaths from alcohol and the opioid crisis. After publishing the report in 2019, the forum decided to look into racial disparity amongst leading causes of death and discovered the disparity amongst auto deaths. 

"In the city of Milwaukee, speeding related fatalities from 2013 to 2018 increased 117% and in that same span of time, they declined in the rest of the state by about 8%," Sommerhauser explains.

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Credit National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System
Since 2011, speeding deaths have been increasing in Milwaukee but declining across the rest of the state.

He cites decreased public transit ridership, removing free driver's education from Milwaukee Public Schools, and changes to Milwaukee police pursuit policy of reckless drivers as possible factors for these trends. 

There have been some positive changes. "Milwaukee Public Schools has brought back free driver's education," according to Sommerhauser, who also notes that "[the Milwaukee police reckless driving pursuit policy] was changed in 2017."

For future change, Sommerhauser praises the Reckless Driving Task Force for their policy proposals, which looks at these possible factors and finds solutions.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect. Before then, she was a director and producer for Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm Chicago Public Radio.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.