LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Officials say traffic deaths in Michigan rose 10 percent last year as drug-impaired, bicyclist and motorcyclist traffic deaths all increased.
The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning noted Wednesday that it’s the second-consecutive year to show a 10 percent increase. They rose from 963 in 2015 to 1,064 in 2016 according to numbers from the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.
The last year Michigan exceeded 1,000 traffic fatalities was 2007. Officials note, however, that alcohol-involved traffic deaths declined 11 percent to 271 in 2016.
MSP First Lt. Michael Shaw says the numbers are concerning.
“Some are saying that there are some increases in traffic due to the facts of the economy and there’s more cars on the road and gasoline is cheaper,” Shaw said. “…We’re also seeing a lot of distracted driving and we definitely think that’s something that plays into what were looking at both nationally and this trend in Michigan.”
What’s being done about it?
As part of MSP’s ‘Get Your Head Out Of Your App’ program, Shaw said they have troopers out and about in unmarked cars, looking for distracted drivers.
“The thought process that it’s OK to open up your iPad and watch Netflix while you’re driving is a little scary to all of us,” he said, adding that he was shocked recently to see a young woman spreading cream cheese on a bagel behind the wheel.
Plans call for using federal funds to help curb bicyclist and pedestrian crashes.
Shaw said they’re looking at ways to educate the public about using crosswalks and traffic lights, as many pedestrian deaths are caused by non-crosswalk, non-intersection crashes.
He also stresses that, while motorcycle helmets are no longer required, State Police still recommend full riding gear including a viability vest and a helmet.
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