JEFFERSON — The general downward trend in automobile fatalities in Jefferson County continued in 2020, with the county registering eight traffic-related deaths in seven crashes.

Although this was two more deaths than in 2019, it was considerably fewer than the 13 each that the county tallied in 2017 and 2018.

Looking back to 1999 in Jefferson County, there were 14 fatal accidents with a total of 15 fatalities. In 1998, there were 16 fatalities in 14 accidents. The year 2004 was particularly bad, when there were 20 fatal crashes in the county.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Capt. Travis Maze said he thinks public service announcements, advances in vehicle safety technology and the increased presence of law enforcement on county roadways are causing the decreases in fatal traffic accidents here.

“I think from the local, state and national levels, we are educating the public on traffic safety and how important it is to all of us on a daily basis,” Maze said. “I believe that automakers are spending a lot of time and money on research and development in an effort to make vehicles safer when crashes do occur. I also believe that there is more collaboration in the construction of roads with specialty groups than even before. The more input from experts in different fields when constructing these roadways, the safer they will be in the future.”

Maze also said the sheriff’s office has made a commitment to the citizens of Jefferson County to listen to their traffic safety concerns and has implemented new strategies to make people feel safer while traveling on area roadways.

“We believe by making our deputies more visible on the roadways, they act as a deterrent to traffic law violations and to criminal behavior in general,” Maze said.

Sheriff Paul Milbrath added that collaboration with the Jefferson County Tavern League has been beneficial, as well.

“Their Safe Ride program has given rides, as have Lyft and Uber,” Milbrath said. “These have given individuals more options for getting home after they have been drinking.”

The first fatal crash of 2020 occurred Jan. 24 at 7:32 p.m. on Highway 18 near Hope Lake Road when a semi-truck struck a minivan, killing Brian S. Johnson, 62, and Kaden B. Johnson, 16, both of Jefferson. Each was pronounced dead about four hours after the crash.

Michelle E. MacDonald, 54, of Helenville, died as a result of a car versus tree crash on March 1 at 9:07 p.m. on County Highway CI at Roger Road. She was pronounced dead at 11:40 p.m. the same day.

Robert K. Carpenter, 31, of Watertown, died March 17 at 12:49 a.m. after being involved involved in a car versus tree crash on County Highway A at Rickert Lane at 8:52 p.m. on March 16.

Jeremiah Hanke, 28, of Juneau, was pronounced dead at 5:10 a.m. May 23 after his vehicle struck a tree at 1:26 a.m. that day. The crash occurred at N6057 S. Farmington Road.

Dawn M. Daubs, 55, of Beloit, died June 22 at an unlisted time after a motorcycle crash that occurred at mile marker 271 on Interstate 94 at 5:28 a.m. on June 21.

Barbara J. Griep, 61, of Watertown, died at 4:32 p.m. March 20 following a one-vehicle rollover accident that occurred at 1:11 p.m. on County Highway D, .56 miles north of Depot Road.

Ashley Sue Sutton, 28, of Fort Atkinson died Nov. 24 at 4:32 p.m. following a two-car crash that occurred on Highway 12 at Oestreich Lane at 8:28 a.m. that day.

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