Facts About Road Safety in Michigan

According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, the rates of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on Michigan's roads have been decreasing for decades. Improved pavement conditions will make the roads safer, but drivers should feel at ease that transportation is less risky than it used to be.

The highway safety office reports that vehicle accidents are at all-time lows. There were 289,061 crashes in Michigan in 2013, when drivers traveled 95 billion miles on Michigan roads. Thus, there were three crashes per million miles traveled. Ten years ago, it was 3.9 crashes per million. Ten years before that it was 4.2 crashes per million. Ten years before that it was 4.7 crashes per million. Before that, it was even worse. (See the chart below.)

Fewer accidents mean fewer injuries on the roads. There are 0.7 injuries per million vehicle miles in 2013, a 53-percent reduction from 1993.

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Deaths from road accidents have steadily decreased as well, with one fatality for every 100 million miles traveled. The state has not yet release the number of vehicle miles traveled in 2014, but the number of deaths in road accidents in 2014 was the lowest in a generation.

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When considering only at passenger cars and trucks, the situation is even better. The figures above include motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. For just cars and trucks, deaths per 100 million vehicle miles is less than half of what it was in 1995.

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Aside from the quality of pavement, other factors contribute to road accidents: According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, 27 percent of road fatalities in Michigan involved a drunk driver and 7 percent involved motorcyclists riding without a helmet.

The May 5 vote on Proposal 1 has many talking about road safety. Road conditions are a relevant factor, and the state certainly should not wait for safety rates to worsen before addressing necessary road repairs.  

In addition to raising taxes to spend more on the roads, the proposal makes a number of other changes to the Michigan Constitution and state statutes.

Improved road quality may lower these numbers even further and deteriorating roads would be detrimental to safety. Voters may want to shore up further gains through road improvements, but should feel comfortable that traffic safety trends continue to improve.

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