City officials hoping to reach all-time low on traffic deaths

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- 2013 was a near-record year for traffic safety in the city of Milwaukee. The number of people killed in car accidents approached the all-time low. Officials think ongoing research could eventually help the city set a new record.

Milwaukee's City Engineer says a stretch of 27th Street is one area officials are studying closely -- looking at ways to improve safety through lane design, the amount of traffic lights and where they're placed.

"We're looking at accidents and how the accidents are occurring, whether there's a lot of angle type of accidents, or there might be a number of accidents that are occurring that are traffic signal disregards," Milwaukee City Engineer Jeff Polenske said.

City leaders hope this research will reduce the number of traffic deaths.

The all-time low is 25 deaths in 1998. That number does not include pedestrian-involved accidents or crashes that happened on the highway.

Various city leaders touted the research at an event on Tuesday, March 18th -- but they say perhaps the best way to keep drivers safe involves the decisions drivers make when behind the wheel.

"What we're asking people to do is drive sensibly, drive responsibly. Make sure that if you're driving, you're not drinking or doing drugs. That's common sense," Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Officials say first responders are looking at ways to improve response times.

"We have what's called the Golden Hour: 60 minutes where we need to get you from where you're injured and you need to be treated. If we can get you there in 30 minutes, you have a seven times greater likelihood that you'll survive," Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said.

The city, county and state are working with AAA to study roads like 27th Street -- which have a relatively high frequency of accidents.

"When it comes down to the actual operations of the traffic control and the roadway geometrics, those are things we can control and try to bring some improvement to," Polenske said.

The city began recording traffic deaths in 1922. The all-time high is 131 deaths in 1926.

Of course, a lot has changed since then in terms of driver education, traffic controls and car safety.

City officials say they're focusing on what they can control: education, enforcement and engineering.