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2016 was the deadliest year on Michigan roads since 2007. The Michigan State Police saw a dramatic rise in the number of fatal car crashes. And some experts are saying distracted driving is to blame.
Every year, thousands of Michigan motorists are involved in serious auto accidents. The number of people who die in fatal car crashes is lower than it has been in years past, but early reports from 2016 say it was the deadliest year in nearly a decade.
As of January 24, 2017, the tally of traffic fatalities for 2016 hit 1,047 – the highest it had been since 2007. That number could continue to rise over the next several weeks as law enforcement agencies across the state finish their year-end reports.
Michigan’s traffic fatalities hit a record low of 817 in 2009, after decades of decline related to improved vehicle safety. Since then they have been creeping back up – increasing by 15%.
Experts say that a number of factors could be contributing to the rise in fatal car accidents, including an improving economy, lower gas prices, and increased distracted driving.
As the economy improves, more people take to the roads, driving to work and on vacations. Younger drivers are also more likely to be on the road as families have the disposable income to give them their own vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drivers’ increasing willingness to use their phones behind the wheel could be driving the numbers up as well. The NHTSA announced last year that distracted driving crashes involving cell phone use had increased from 47,000 in 2010 to 69,000 in 2014. The agency estimates that at any given daylight moment, 5% of all American drivers – or 660,000 motorists – are talking on hand-held cell phones.
Michigan State Police Lieutenant Michael Shaw says it’s time to start paying attention on the roads:
“We’ve tried all kinds of different things from enforcement to a campaign Get You Head Out of Your App, but these messages don’t seem to be working, and we really need to get the driving community to understand how quickly something can go bad and how you can lose your life or kill somebody else.”
The secret to reducing distracted driving accidents depends on each driver taking responsibility for his or her own cell phone. Michigan drivers can take the pledge to put their smartphones away. Parents can install apps on their teen drivers’ phones that block distractions and keep their mind on the task at hand.
Until smartphone providers step up to limit distractions and make apps safer, it will be up to drivers to protect themselves, and their families. Do your part to keep the 2017 fatal car crash number down. Commit to driving distraction-free today.
David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. If you have been the victim of a distracted driving accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.