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Traffic Fatalities Fell in 2009, But Michigan's Repeal of Motorcycle Helmet Law Doesn't Bode Well

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You may have seen the recent report released by the Department of Transportation that indicates that highway fatalities fell in 2009 as compared to previous years. In fact, the 2009 numbers are the lowest that nation’s seen since 1954. NHTSA attributes the decline to increased seat belt use, campaigns that discourage drunk driving, and the use of cell phones or text-messaging devices while behind the wheel.

Michigan corroborated these findings with the state’s own statistics:

  • Motorcycle-involved fatalities fell from 127 in 2008 to 105 in 2009, a drop of 17 percent.

  • Commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities dropped 28 percent, from 106 in 2008 to 76 in 2009.

  • The state recorded zero school bus-related traffic deaths in 2009, down from four in 2008. There has not been a child killed on a school bus in Michigan since 1989.

  • Cell phone-involved crashes fell from 919 in 2008 to 866 in 2009. (Michigan cannot track crashes involving texting specifically.)

  • The number of car-deer crashes remained fairly steady, up 1 percent from 2008. There were 61,486 deer-involved crashes in 2009.

  • Pedestrian fatalities increased 10 percent, up from 114 in 2008 to 125 in 2009.

These statistics show a great improvement in Michigan’s previous number of deaths caused by highway accidents. Overall, Michigan’s traffic deaths reached a milestone of 871 total in 2009 when, just a just a decade ago in 1999, 1,386 people died in highway accidents. However, before we write off highway traffic accidents as a problem of the past, lawmakers recently repealed the helmet requirement for motorcyclists, prompting safety advocates to warn of the possibility for increased motorcycle-related fatalities as a result.