LANSING, Mich. —Michigan is averaging more than 408,000 motor vehicle accidents annually, resulting in nearly 1,300 fatalities, according to a new report released today.
“Crash Courses: An Analysis of Traffic Accidents in Michigan,” examines Michigan accident records and trends from the past several years. It also notes that a shrinking pool of transportation dollars will continue to affect these numbers. The report was released today by the Michigan Transportation Team (MTT), a partnership of businesses, associations and citizens linked with the common goal of improving Michigan’s transportation infrastructure.
Simple things such as constructing medians to separate traffic can reduce accidents by as much as 75 percent while widening a lane by two feet reduces accidents by 23 percent. Adding intermittent passing lanes on two-lane roads has reduced fatalities by as much as 30 percent — but these enhancements cost money.
“As road conditions deteriorate around the state and traffic volumes continue to grow, the funding to make safety improvements is shrinking,” said Mike Nystrom, co-chair of MTT. “The entities in charge of our roads — be it MDOT or local cities and counties — are doing the best they can, but accidents will continue to be a problem with existing funding levels.”
Some of the report’s key findings include: At current rates, one out of every 8,725 Michigan residents will be killed in a traffic accident. One out of every 101 is injured. In 2004, more than 60 percent of accidents occurred on a rural roads. The interstate system saves an estimated 170 lives per year, due to enhanced safety features. Since 2001, traffic accidents have cost Michigan an average of $9.55 billion annually in economic losses — or $924 per resident. With a $51.3 billion transportation funding shortfall projected through 2025, Michigan could see current traffic fatality and injury trends increase by an additional 23,200 fatalities and 800,000 injuries over the next 19 years. The report also found that rural counties were the most deadly. The 10 counties with the highest fatality rate, at an average of 50.1 per 100,000 residents, were rural in nature. Many rural roads lack safety features that are found on interstates and major roads, such as centerline stripes, shoulders and edge markings. Some rural roads also have sharp curves that require reduced speed postings. More populous counties had a higher number of deaths, but had a much lower fatality rate.
The report concludes that Michigan can increase driving safety for its residents by making an investment to upgrade safety and highway features. National studies show every $100 million invested into road improvements prevents 140 deaths and 5,000 injuries.
“Making an investment to improve Michigan highways will save lives and ensure the safety of all motorists driving through our state,” Nystrom said. “These improvements are needed today. Without the funding to move forward, we will continue to see needless accidents and fatalities that could be prevented.”