Michigan traffic deaths fall 8% in ’14

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Traffic deaths in Michigan fell 8 percent in 2014, even as overall crashes rose 3 percent and injuries rose slightly, state officials said Monday.

It was the first time since 2011 that state traffic deaths fell below 900 — and the lowest number of deaths in Michigan since 2009.

Overall, Michigan traffic deaths fell from 951 in 2013 to 876 in 2014, as crashes rose from 289,061 in 2013 to 298,699. The number of people injured rose slightly from 71,031 to 2013 to 71,378.

Serious injuries fell 7 percent, from 5,283 in 2013 to 4,909 in 2014. Deer-involved crashes fell 7 percent — from 49,205 in 2013 to 45,690 in 2014 — but they still account for more than one in seven crashes in Michigan.

The state also said alcohol-involved crash fatalities dropped 17 percent, from 284 in 2013 to 236 in 2014. Drug-involved traffic deaths were down 9 percent, from 165 in 2013 to 150 in 2014.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in January traffic deaths nationwide fell in the first half of 2014 by 2.2 percent to 14,950, even as total miles traveled on U.S. roads rose by 0.4 percent. NHTSA estimated the fatality rate was 1.02 deaths per 100 million in the first six months of the year. That is the lowest-ever fatality rate and fewest people killed on U.S. roads for the first half of the year — though both numbers are estimates and could change.

“While overall crashes increased 3 percent, there is some very good news in the 2014 crash data for Michigan,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “The next step is further review and analysis by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to better understand these changes.”

Michigan also reported big drops in other traffic deaths. Motorcyclist deaths were down 16 percent, from 128 in 2013 to 107 in 2014. Bicyclist fatalities were down 22 percent, from 27 in 2013 to 21 in 2014.

Michigan’s mandatory helmet law ended in 2012. Now, riders may go without helmets if they carry $20,000 in additional medical insurance, are 21 or older, have at least two years of riding experience, or have passed a safety training test.

Commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities increased for the third year in a row, up 12 percent, from 94 in 2013 to 105 in 2014. Cellphone-related crashes decreased 3 percent, from 689 in 2013 to 666 in 2014. Pedestrian fatalities fell slightly to 148 in 2014 down from 149 in 2013.

Other states have reported declines. New York State transportation officials said Friday 2014 traffic deaths will be down over 2013. Pennsylvania and Maryland also have reported lower traffic deaths.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said Friday the agency is committed to reducing traffic deaths — nearly 33,000 in 2013 alone.

“That’s 90 deaths every day,” Rosekind said in New York. “They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends, lovers, partners, co-workers. ... Everyone of those is somebody.”

He added: “All of those deaths were preventable.”

In May, NHTSA said the economic costs of U.S. traffic crashes rose by 20 percent to $277 billion in 2010 over the government findings in 2000.

The agency said in a 300-page report the economic costs are equal to $897 per American in tallying the costs of 33,000 crash deaths and 3.9 million injured in 2010.

In the latest update of the government’s survey of costs, NHTSA said the total costs are $870.8 billion, including societal harm. This includes $277 billion in economic costs and at least $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries.

The study assessed crashes in 2010 and found that car crashes cost the equivalent of 1.9 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product — or total economic output — including nearly 24 million damaged vehicles. Traffic crashes led to congestion and tie-ups that cost society $28 billion annually.

Overall, nearly 75 percent of these costs are paid through taxes, insurance premiums, and congestion related costs and increased environmental impacts. These costs, shouldered by society rather than individual crash victims, totaled over $200 billion, NHTSA said.

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