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Sheriff blames drinking, speed for road death spike

The number of people killed on Pierce County roads has doubled in the last two years, and three weeks into 2008, the statistics are looking even worse.

The county reported 10 traffic fatalities in 2007 compared to five in 2006 and four in 2005. While these were the first fatalities of 2008, four people died on Pierce County roads this past weekend alone.

The county's five-year average is eight road deaths, and last year got off to a good start with no deaths in the first three months.

Alcohol and speed are the main contributing factors, said Sheriff Nancy Hove Monday.

"The population is growing, and people want to get there a lot faster and don't want to slow down," said Hove.

She said that, while there is no review of individual accidents, the county's Highway Safety Committee does look for and attempt to address problem areas.

"What we do is watch if there's a lot going on in one area," said Hove.

A review of last year's incidents shows a few commonalities.

--Alcohol was involved in the accidents accounting for seven of the 10 deaths.

--Those who died ranged in age from 21 to 57. Half of the deceased were in their 20s.

--Five of the fatalities occurred on Hwy. 35, two on Hwy. 29, two on county trunk highways and one on a town road.

--Two were motorcycle accidents, and four were single-vehicle accidents. Four of the deaths involved two or more vehicles.

Statewide, 2007 was a comparatively safe year on the road. The year-end total of deaths was 741--34 less than the five-year average.

Neighboring St. Croix County reported 17 traffic deaths in 2007. Dunn County reported five and Pepin County, one.