I remember a term from my youth, that seems to be more apt today than ever before. “Paralysis By Analysis”. The latest statistics on Michigan auto safety made me think of that term. The latest numbers from the Michigan State Police show that driving fatalities were up in 2020. In fact, that’s the first increase in three years. And those 1,083 fatalities were a 10-percent increase (from 985 fatalities in 2019) and are the most traffic fatalities in Michigan since 1,084 deaths in 2007.

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

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

See, that’s what you’d expect. So, what to make of this? My gut reaction is ‘stupid knows no limits’. And the word limit may be the key. I don’t think you need to be an expert to figure out there was less driving going on in 2020, yet Michigan and surrounding states had more fatalities. I remember in the Spring and Summer of 2020 driving through downtown Kalamazoo, and witnessing just a handful of cars around 6pm, and several drivers going probably 60 mph, on Kalamazoo Avenue towards West Main and Stadium.

First thought is, this makes me smirk at terms like “the honor system”.

But as downtown Kalamazoo becomes a busier hub than it’s been in many decades, what are you going to do? Please, don’t say to put in more traffic lights. All that does is raise the lever of stress and anger in drivers, because you know that all the other stresses in life, at work and with family are not going to just stop.

Here’s something, though. Michael Prince, who is the director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP), says it could be speed, drinking and lack of seat belt usage but he says they need to go back and study these numbers.

He also pushed the current “click it or ticket” campaigns, and public efforts to lessen impaired driving, but let’s talk when we see how the ‘honor system” works out.

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