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Traffic fatalities jump in Michigan

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Traffic fatalities on Michigan roads last year were the highest since 2007, according to preliminary numbers from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

As of Tuesday, there were 306,779 crashes in 2016, resulting in 1,047 traffic fatalities and 78,371 injuries, said Ann Readett, spokeswoman for the Highway Safety Planning office. Those figures will change in the next several weeks as law enforcement agencies send in reports, she said.

In 2016, traffic fatalities in Michigan exceeded the 1,000 mark for the first since 2007.

A number of factors could be increasing crashes, including more motorists on the roads during a stronger economy as well as texting while driving, according to experts.

“We know some things that are certainly playing a role is an improved economy,” Readett said. “More people working ... gas prices have been fairly low. Those two things along increased travel increase exposure.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, phone usage while driving, including texting, could also be a factor in increasing traffic crashes. According to research NHTSA released in 2016, the number of vehicle crashes nationwide that involved cell phone use increased from 47,000 in 2010 to 69,000 in 2014.

Readett said that some motorists mistakenly believe they can safely text while driving, she said.

“They will say: ‘I’m good at texting and driving. It’s the other people who are bad.’” she said.

The National Safety Council offers tips for motorists:

■Make sure every passenger buckles up

■Designate an alcohol and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation

■Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue

■Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free

■Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits; teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers

■Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311