Fatal crashes down 3 percent in 2017

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Fatal traffic crashes were down three percent in Michigan in 2017, fatal crashes involving bicycles were down 45 percent, and alcohol-involved fatalities jumped 32 percent, said the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.

Some 1,028 people died in car crashes in Michigan in 2017, down from 1,064 the previous year. But "nearly half of all traffic crash fatalities (involved) alcohol or drugs," noted Michael Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, a part of Michigan State Police, in the office's statement on the numbers.

"Attention must be paid," Prince said in his statement. "This noteworthy change is causing great concern. Clearly our most basic safety countermeasures, focusing on increasing seat belt use and reducing impaired driving, remain just as important now as they ever have been."

Some 35 percent of crash fatalities happened in alcohol-involved crashes, or 359 of the 1,028. Another 246, or 24 percent, involved drug use. Together, that's about 59 percent of crash fatalities in Michigan in 2017.

2017 was the second straight year that Michigan had more than 1,000 car crash deaths, and those are the only two years in the last five to have that distinction. In 2014, Michigan had less than 900 fatal crashes, finishing the year with 876.

Metro Detroit's three counties had 270 of the state's 1,028 traffic fatalities, which is just more than 26 percent. Those three counties have about 42 percent of the state's population. 

Regular roadways were the site of 58 percent of the fatalities, or 596 of the 1,028. Interstates, such as I-94, I-75 and I-696, only accounted for 96 fatalities, or nine percent.

In 19 percent of fatalities, the victims weren't wearing seat belts. Some 47 percent of fatalities took place in single-vehicle crashes.

There were 21 bicyclist deaths on Michigan roads in 2017, down 45 percent from the 38 in 2016. Teen deaths are down by almost one-third, falling from 94 to 64. Motorcyclist and pedestrian fatalities were both town modestly, three and four percent respectively. But deer-involved fatal crashes were up slightly, from 14 to 17, an increase of 21 percent. 

The Office of Highway Safety Planning did not immediately respond to a request for comment.