Crashes with emergency vehicles have doubled since 2016, Wis. DOT data show

“Those numbers going the wrong way,” Lake Delton’s fire chief said, on the upward trend of emergency vehicle crashes
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 9:29 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With new statewide data obtained by NBC15, first responders say a trend is moving the wrong direction.

The numbers from Wisconsin Department of Transportation reflect statewide crashes which involve emergency vehicles, like police cars, fire trucks and ambulances.

There were about twice as many crashes in 2021 than there were in 2016, the data show. Last year topped off with 559 crashes, but the figure could grow as 2021 figures are still considered preliminary.

Statewide Crashes Involving Emergency Vehicles, per data from Wis. Dept. of Transportation.
Statewide Crashes Involving Emergency Vehicles, per data from Wis. Dept. of Transportation.(WMTV/Michelle Baik)

Between 2016 and 2021, six people were killed in emergency vehicle crashes, not limited to first responders.

Early Thursday morning, a semi crashed into a Mineral Point fire truck, killing the two firefighters inside. Officials identified the two as Fire Captain Brian C. Busch, 43, and passenger firefighter James M. Ludlum, 69.

“Collectively our hearts just broke,” Darren Jorgenson, Lake Delton fire chief, said. “It hits very close to home, not only because it’s so close to us, but their community is a similar size to ours.”

He pointed to what happened within his own department four years ago, when a Lake Delton firefighter was hit and severely injured by a car. It happened while he was responding to a crash.

“Knowing how much that hurt us, I can’t even begin to imagine what Mineral Point and those families are going through,” Jorgenson said.

Almost every year since 2016, the number of emergency vehicle crashes have gone up.

“Those numbers are going the wrong way,” Jorgenson said. “There are too many distractions. People are in a hurry, not paying attention.”

The fire chief has been a vocal advocate of state traffic safety legislations. Wisconsin’s Move Over Law says drivers must move over or slow down for stopped emergency vehicles.

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