As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, Michigan state authorities are asking the public to slow down and be extra cautious on the roadways.
Crashes, fatalities, and injuries are all up across the state.
Michael Felton was just in a car crash last weekend. His 2016 Ford Fusion was transformed into a heap of mangled metal.
“Everybody who witnessed it and was in the accident were surprised that the people in the white car made it,” Felton said.
Those people in the white car were Felton and his wife Jessica. Felton says he and his wife had been waiting at the stop light on Fort Street near Baumey Avenue when they say a truck rear-ended them and smashed through the back of their car.
They are fortunately home now, but it doesn’t mean the road ahead will be easy, especially for Jessica.
“She has three broken ribs, her back is messed up, she can’t get up by herself,” Felton explained.
That white car was the only car they had to get to and from work. It is now totaled, but the family is focusing on the silver linings.
The Feltons’ experience is not an outlier. There have been a string of high-profile crashes in metro Detroit recently, like the one that shut down westbound I-696 for hours June 23. A semi plowed into the back of a car near Orchard Lake Road, killing the car’s two passengers.
Kendall Wingrove, communications manager with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, says fatal crashes have been on the rise.
“Unfortunately, traffic fatalities have been on the rise. We recently released our statistics for the year 2021 and it’s the highest rate of Michigan traffic fatalities since 2005,” Wingrove explained.
In 2020, there were 1,083 traffic fatalities in Michigan. In 2021, there were 1,129, an increase of 4%. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only traffic statistic where the state saw an increase. Traffic crashes were up 15% from 2020 to 2021 and injuries were up 17%.
Wingrove admits there isn’t one clear cause for the increase.
Lt. Michael Shaw with the Michigan State Police isn’t mincing words when it comes to what he’s seeing on the streets.
“1,100 people who could be with their family aren’t there anymore because of actions that drivers are taking,” Shaw said.
He says there are more factors at play then there used to be on the roads.
“We used to call it the big three. I call it the big five now,” Shaw explained.
He said the main causes are:
- Excessive speed
- Following too closely, especially in construction zones
- Distracted driving — people texting, face timing and even watching movies
- Impaired driving — people under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- People not wearing seat belts.
Shaw said people need to wake up and alter their actions behind the wheel.
“Eventually, the driver’s going to have to to understand that they have to stop doing these behaviors or they’re going to kill somebody,” Shaw said.
Michael Felton has some advice for drivers.
“No matter if you’re a good driver or not, there’s no telling how that driver is in that other car. So you don’t just watch yourself, you got to watch everything around you. The road is a dangerous place,” Felton said.