Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 28, 2013

Another View: Questions raised by state traffic crash data

The state experienced significant decreases in traffic crashes over the past decade, according to findings from a Michigan State Police study of traffic-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Findings show traffic-related accidents fell from 395,515 in 2002 to 273,891 in 2012, the fifth year in a row Michigan had fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths.

Lawmakers, law enforcement, educators and the public need to take note of some of the findings, as the report includes statistics that show areas of concerns as well as areas where improvement has been made over the past year.

For example:

n Motorcyclist fatalities increased 18 percent. Was this because of the state’s repeal of the helmet law that went into effect last April?

n While cell phone-involved crashes decreased 9 percent, fatal crashes involving a cell phone increased (and it’s unclear whether the driver was texting in these situations, as Michigan cannot track crashes that specifically involve texting). It is encouraging to hear that overall, cell phone-involved accidents are on the decrease. Is this because campaigns and other efforts to inform the public are effectively getting through to people?

n Teen fatalities declined 14 percent. Is this decline because of improved driver’s education programs? Could it be because of an increasing number of private instruction academies? Does the state’s graduated license program have anything to do with this? And are teens getting the message that it’s unsafe to use a cell phone/text while driving?

n Fatalities involving alcohol increased 3 percent, and those involving drugs increased 6 percent. Do law enforcement efforts factor into this growth, or does there need to be a greater awareness of the consequences of driving while under the influence? Should lawmakers reviewing consequences for people who drive under the influence of prescription medication or designer drugs?

n Commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities increased 10 percent. Are Michigan’s deteriorating roads or loss of road maintenance funding factors?

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