Michigan traffic fatalities skyrocket in 2020, as driving is down


I remember a term from my youth, which seems more appropriate today than ever. “Paralysis by analysis”. The latest Michigan auto safety statistics reminded me of that term. The latest Michigan State Police figures show the number of driving fatalities was on the rise in 2020. In fact, it’s the first increase in three years. And those 1,083 deaths represented a 10% increase (from 985 fatalities in 2019) and are the highest number of road fatalities in Michigan since 1,084 fatalities in 2007.

But here’s what’s confusing: All other numbers are down, some by a lot.

  • Injuries: 74,963 in 2019 to 60,896 in 2020, down 19%.
  • Crashes: 314,377 in 2019 to 245,432 in 2020, down 22%.
  • Suspected serious injuries: 5,629 in 2019 to 5,433 in 2020, down 3%.

See, this is what you expect. So what to do with this? My gut reaction is “stupid knows no bounds”. And the word limit may be the key. I don’t think you need to be an expert to figure out that there was less driving in 2020, but Michigan and neighboring states have seen more fatalities. I remember in the spring and summer of 2020 driving through downtown Kalamazoo and witnessing a handful of cars around 6 p.m., and several drivers probably going 100 km / h, on Kalamazoo Avenue towards West Main and the stadium.

The first thought is, it makes me smirk at words like “the honor system”.

But as downtown Kalamazoo becomes a busier crossroads than it has been for many decades, what are you going to do? Please don’t say install more traffic lights. All it does is increase the stress and anger levels in drivers because you know all other stresses in life, work and family are not going to end.

Here is something, however. Michael Prince, who is the director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), says it could be speed, alcohol consumption and lack of seat belt use, but he says they must go back and study those numbers.

He’s also been pushing the current “click it or ticket” campaigns and public efforts to reduce impaired driving, but let’s talk about that when we see how the “honor system” works.

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