WisDOT: Safety first

Transportation safety is WisDOT’s priority. We apply a comprehensive approach focused on:

  • working with partners throughout Wisconsin to identify and resolve safety issues
  • gathering, analyzing, and reporting data on traffic crashes and injuries, and then using that data to inform policies, investments, and enforcement of safe operations on state highways and Interstates
  • managing state and federal funds to build safer infrastructure on our roads, rail system, and at our state’s airports
  • conducting public outreach and education campaigns, including those focused on pedestrian and bicyclist safety

WisDOT is committed to working with community partners such as law enforcement, health care agencies, and local Traffic Safety Commissions to keep travelers safe on our roads. We work with Class I and short-line railroads to ensure safe road-rail crossings, and work with airport owners and the Federal Aviation Administration to support safe air travel. We partner with the Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through our Freight Advisory Committee to address maritime matters. Collectively, this “team approach” improves our decision-making processes, regarding both construction and maintenance of Wisconsin’s transportation system and enforcement of safe operations by users.

WisDOT is a data-driven organization and is committed to learning in order to improve transportation safety. Data aids us in effective and efficient decision-making to plan, design, construct, maintain, and enforce safe use of the transportation system. For example, WisDOT uses a systemic approach to determine whether corridors or intersections have a higher than expected crash rate, and if so, how best to make cost-effective roadway improvements to reduce that rate. State Patrol uses predictive analytics and modeling - the process of extracting information from data and using it to predict trends and behavior - to optimize its staffing allocation and to increase law enforcement visibility in the right locations at the right times to maximize impact on traffic safety.

Safety is a core component of WisDOT planning efforts. Not only do we produce a Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a statewide comprehensive plan that provides a synchronized framework for reducing traffic fatalities, injuries, and crashes over a three-year period, but we also incorporate safety into our State Airport System Plan, Rail Plan, Bicycle Plan, Pedestrian Plan, Freight Plan, and our long-range multimodal plan, Connections 2030. Safety will continue to be a core component of our new multimodal plan, Connect 2050, which is currently under development.

Each day, nearly 400 State Patrol Troopers and Inspectors enforce safe travel on our state highways and Interstates. Whether countering impaired drivers, ensuring safe vehicle speeds, or working at our Safety and Weight Enforcement Facilities to ensure trucks comply with laws and regulations, State Patrol is committed to making the road system as safe as possible. In addition to patrol cars, State Patrol uses aircraft to help with traffic enforcement and motorcycles to provide a highly-visible law enforcement presence.

WisDOT invests approximately $220 million per year in safety-related programs and initiatives, including funds dedicated to working with local partners to keep our roads clear of snow and ice. In addition, the department also manages or participates in dozens of other programs without dedicated funding. Cumulatively, over 180 WisDOT staff are specifically dedicated to improving safety, not including State Patrol troopers and i​nspectors who work to keep our roads safe each day.

MAPSS performance improvement

The department’s MAPSS Performance Measures are a tool to help the department assess how well it's doing at meeting our mission. Given the centrality of safety to the department, it is one of the five core areas measured on a regular basis. Wisconsin is also required to set annual safety targets by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The department plays a key role in educating about safe traveling throughout the state. WisDOT’s “Zero in Wisconsin,” “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” and “Click It or Ticket” messaging campaigns are dedicated to educating drivers to the risks of impaired driving and not wearing a seatbelt, while participation in Operation Lifesaver provides an opportunity for WisDOT to work with railroads to warn of the dangers associated with trespassing on railroad tracks.

​We coordinate with Safe Kids Wisconsin and Children’s Wisconsin to manage the Wisconsin Child Passenger Safety Program, which provides safety technician training and resources on child passenger safety for parents and caregivers. WisDOT also works with numerous technical colleges and private companies through the Wisconsin Motorcycle Safety Program, which strives to improve motorcyclists’ training and education as well as to motivate motorists to share the road. On the roads, our State Traffic Operations Center provides real-time information about congestion and crashes via variable message signs throughout the state.

WisDOT uses proven and emerging technologies and processes in road design and construction to maximize safety and ensure a long lifespan for public bridges and roadways in a cost-effective manner. This includes use of innovative interchange and intersection design, employment of high friction surface treatments on bridges and curves, and numerous other safety engineering tools. On the enforcement side, State Patrol works with other law enforcement agencies to process citations and traffic crash reports in Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS), which supports crash data collection and analysis. Looking to the future, WisDOT hosts the Wisconsin Automated Vehicle External (WAVE) Advisory Committee, which advises the department on connected and automated vehicle (CAV)-related issues. Given the preponderance of crashes are caused by human error, many believe CAV technologies will significantly reduce the number of crashes in coming decades.

WisDOT's focus on safety is broad and multimodal. Select the icons below to find examples of the programs we manage or participate in to help maximize safety throughout the transportation system.

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WisDOT is committed to working with community partners such as law enforcement, health care agencies, and local Traffic Safety Commissions to keep travelers safe on our roads by countering impaired driving, enforcing seatbelt and child safety belt laws, and providing traffic and crash information to drivers. WisDOT’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan denotes ten issue areas that are of the highest priority:

  • Improve Safety Culture, Safety Data, and Safety Technology
  • Reduce Driver Distraction/Improve Driver Alertness
  • Reduce Alcohol and Drug-Impaired Driving
  • Reduce the Incidence and Severity of Motorcycle Crashes
  • Improve Driver Performance (Especially Among Teens and Older Drivers)
  • Improve Non-Motorist Safety
  • Improve Safety of Intersections
  • Increase Occupant Protection
  • Curb Aggressive Driving/Reduce Speed-Related Crashes
  • Reduce Lane Departure Crashes

For each of these areas, WisDOT has performance goals, specific tasks, and expected outputs that are associated with making our roads safer.

Related programs

WisDOT dedicates significant resources to reducing risks on our roads. Programs, initiatives, and principles the department manages, participates in, and utilizes include:

  • Impaired Countermeasures Program
  • Dedicated OWI enforcement
  • Seatbelt and child safety belt enforcement
  • Messaging campaigns, including Zero in Wisconsin, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, and Click It or Ticket
  • Roadway message boards
  • 511 Wisconsin logo
  • 511wi.gov
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program
  • Access management
  • Road safety audits
  • Bridge inspections
  • Use of an Interactive Highway Safety Design Model
  • Clear signing and marking on the roadways
  • Winter snow and ice removal in partnership with Wisconsin’s counties
  • Community Maps
  • Community Maps crash-mapping database
  • Both walking and biking are an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can provide a range of benefits. However, both pedestrians and bicyclists travel on a system dominated by motorists, and collisions with motor vehicles do occur. When a crash occurs between a vehicle and a pedestrian or bicyclist, it’s the nondriver who is most likely to be injured. WisDOT is determined to maximize pedestrian and bicyclist safety throughout Wisconsin.

    Related programs

    WisDOT makes significant efforts to maximize pedestrian and bicyclist safety through:

    • Community service programs, including educational outreach
    • Use of pedestrian hybrid beacons in construction

    WisDOT is committed to working with railroads to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities at road-rail crossings. We manage resources to both make safety infrastructure improvements and to conduct educational outreach.

    Related programs

    Among the programs and initiatives WisDOT manages and participates in to improve rail safety, three stand out:

    Flying is one of the safest modes of transportation, but WisDOT believes in working together to find ways to improve safety even further. Though airports are largely owned and operated by local governments, WisDOT plays a key role in supporting safe air travel. We work with airport owners, consultant engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the construction industry to continually improve airport facilities.

    Related p​rograms

    WisDOT’s role in safe air travel comes through administration of funding and program management:

    • Support of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) initiative
    • Tall Tower Permitting Program
    • Administration of the FAA Airport Safety Master Records Program
    • Aviation training and events
    SWEF

    Freight movement by truck is critical to our economy and the wellbeing of Wisconsin’s citizens. WisDOT is committed to mitigating roadway risks associated with freight movement by ensuring compliance with laws and regulations and helping to increase drivers’ confidence.

    Related programs

    WisDOT ​​manages multiple programs and invests in significant infrastructure to mitigate roadway risk associated with freight movement. These include:

    • Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program
    • Oversize/overweight permitting
    • State Patrol’s monitoring of state highways and Interstates
    • Construction and maintenance of Safety and Weight Enforcement Facilities

    WisDOT has responsibilities for overseeing both bus and rail transit safety. Bus safety compliance corresponds with WisDOT's general oversight, while rail transit safety is its own regulatory program.

    Related programs

    WisDOT’s transit safety role:

    • Supports small public transportation providers by drafting Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans, unless a provider elects to draft its own PTASP
    • Fulfills federal requirements as the state safety oversight for rail transit systems in Wisconsin​