DOT hopes to change traffic safety through culture

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY-TV) Nearly 590 people died on Wisconsin roadways last year.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to significantly lower the number of traffic deaths.

A goal the DOT explained Wednesday during the Governor's Conference on Highway Safety in Appleton.

"Well traffic deaths are right up as one of the leading causes, in the top three leading causes of death in Wisconsin," said David Pabst, Director of Transportation Safety for the Wisconsin DOT.

Pabst says while alcohol related car crashes have been reduced over the past 10 years, it's not enough in reducing traffic deaths.

"See an increase in fatalities overall because people are still not wearing their seat belt as much as they should, they’re not slowing down, they’re driving distracted, they’re driving drowsy," said Pabst.

The DOT continues to educate the public on these safety problems through its Zero in Wisconsin Campaign and though law enforcement.

But this year it wants to change the culture of transportation safety.

"Once you have the officer there with the speed gun out, yes everybody slows down, officer goes away, and they speed up again,” Dr. Nicolas Ward of Western Transportation Institute said. “The nice thing about changing culture is once we change who we believe we are and what's important to us as a culture, that sustains the behavior."

Dr. Ward from the Western Transportation Institute says the key to connect with people is to focus on the positive aspects of culture like family..

"Help protect family, your family, you're neighbor’s family and showing how those behaviors actually support something you value inherently, which is your family," said Ward.

The DOT says it will continue to develop a plan to better connect with drivers to make the roads safer.