I'm driving in my car

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published November 1, 2002  | November 2002 issue

Wisconsin drivers pay 22 percent less in auto insurance premiums than the national average, and ranked 47th among the 50 states and District of Columbia, according to a recent industry report. Insurance experts say lots of rural space, smaller urban populations and less-congested roads make for fewer accidents in Wisconsin.

The good rating comes despite the fact that traffic fatalities in the state spiked to almost 800 in 2000, the last year of the study period and the highest death toll in at least a decade. From 1998 to 2000, Wisconsin traffic fatalities climbed 12 percent, while the national rate increased less than 1 percent. After falling in 2001, traffic deaths are on the rise again this year and threaten to break 2000 levels.

The state Department of Transportation blames the recent rise, in part, to fewer people wearing their seat belts—at the same time that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seat belt use nationwide has hit record levels. As of late September, Wisconsin also was one of only 18 remaining states that still had a drunk driving standard of 0.10 rather than the federally encouraged 0.08.

But other, noncrash factors might help keep premiums low. New Jersey has the highest auto premiums in the nation and its insurance industry is highly regulated. Wisconsin is considered a low-regulation state, and is reported to have five times more firms offering auto insurance.

Douglas Clement