Michigan has 10% jump in traffic deaths in 2016

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Traffic deaths in Michigan jumped 10 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to data released Wednesday by Michigan's Office of Highway Safety Planning.

There were 1,064 traffic deaths in Michigan in 2016. Last year was also the first time there were more than 1,000 traffic fatalities in Michigan since 2007, according to a release on the data.

Nationwide, fatalities were up 6 percent in 2016,according to estimates prepared by the National Safety Council: 40,200 in 2016 compared to 37,757 in 2015.

The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a single year was in 2007, the organization said. There were 41,000 deaths that year.

Anne Readett, spokeswoman for the Office of Highway Safety Planning, said more analysis needs to be done on the numbers to reach conclusions as to why the increase took place. Readett did say, though, that the increase was "not unexpected," part of a nationwide trend wherein traffic crashes increase as the economy improves.

The National Safety Council also said that drivers drove 3 percent more miles in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Motor vehicle fatality numbers have been ringing the alarm for two years,” Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council, told the AP in February. “Unfortunately, we have been tone-deaf to the data and the carnage on our roadways. If we fail to take action, the death toll will continue to rise.”

2016 statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration were not yet available, a spokesman said.

In Michigan, Metro Detroit -- Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties -- accounted for 32 percent of those deaths, or 343. Car crashes overall were up 5 percent in 2016, injuries were up 8 percent, and serious injuries were up 16 percent.

Alcohol-involved traffic deaths fell 11 percent, to 271 in 2016 from 303 in 2015. But drug-involved fatalities were up by 32 percent: 236 in 2016 compared to 179 in 2015. In terms of raw numbers, there were only 35 more alcohol-involved traffic deaths in Michigan last year than drug-involved, compared to a differential of 124 in 2015.

Readett said there are efforts underway to address drugged driving in Michigan.

Since 2009, Michigan State Police have offered Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training to law enforcement officers in the state. Additionally, there are 113 officers, 25 of them state troopers, who are trained as drug recognition experts. Drug recognition experts are trained to tell which narcotics a person may have taken before getting behind the wheel.

Fatal crashes involving young drivers, defined as age 16-20, fell 7 percent, to 147 in 2016 from 158 in 2015.

Deaths involving bicyclists were up 15 percent, to 38 in 2016 compared to 33 in 2015.

Even in crashes involving professional drivers, deaths were up in 2016. Commercial motor vehicle-involved crashes numbered 120 in 2016, 41 percent higher than the 85 in 2015.

There were also 55 "distraction-involved" traffic deaths in 2016. Readett said an "apples-to-apples" comparison to prior years was not available because of a change in the way that number is tracked.

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, 301 people have died in car crashes in Michigan as of May 2. That's up 26 from this time last year, and 20 people died in car crashes within the last week.

Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning is part of Michigan State Police.


Fatal car crashes in Michigan, since 2012

2012: 936

2013: 951

2014: 876

2015: 963

2016: 1,064

Source: Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning