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Associated Press, Published November 18 2010

Traffic accidents on rise in Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. – Authorities are concerned that an increase in traffic in the growing North Dakota Oil Patch city of Williston is leading to more crashes and injuries.

Statistics show 708 motor vehicle accidents occurred from January through the end of October. The city is on pace to surpass the 751 accidents recorded last year, the Williston Herald reports.

“It’s just the fact that we have more people in town, more vehicles and more drivers,” Police Capt. Tom Ladwig said.

“One (statistic) that concerns me is the people injured,” he said. “That number is up considerably from last year.”

There were 117 injuries recorded through October, compared with 82 during the same period last year. Ladwig said there has been only one traffic fatality in Williston this year and that “we’re lucky we haven’t seen more than that.”

Vehicle damages also are up, with an estimated $2.2 million so far this year compared to $1.8 million in the same period in 2009.

Motorcycle accidents in Williston also have risen over the year, from four to 13. Traffic citations issued by police have increased from 362 last year in the first 10 months to 490 this year.

“We just ask everybody to drive carefully and defensively,” Ladwig said.

State Highway 22 in western North Dakota has also seen a dramatic increase in traffic. Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Haugen told KXMB-TV that traffic counters show 4,400 vehicles per day in Manning, home to fewer than 50 people.

Authorities worry that crashes on the highway will rise as winter sets in, especially with many drivers in the Oil Patch being new to the state and not familiar with driving on snow and ice.

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