If you believe you have seen more reckless driving on I-94 these days, you are probably right. According to Michigan State Police, the state’s highways are becoming deadlier.
MSP recently announced that 730 people were killed in car accidents this year, as of Sept. 23. That’s 58 more fatalities statewide than there were at this point last year. At the same time, the total number of serious (but not fatal) injuries in car wrecks has dropped nearly 10 percent year-over-year to 3,597.
So it appears that Michigan’s roads have become both safer and deadlier in 2020. How can this be?
Emptier highways a double-edged sword
Probably the most important factor is the COVID-19 pandemic. Many schools and workplaces remain closed and remote-only. With fewer people commuting in the mornings and afternoons, it makes sense that there have been fewer serious car crashes overall this year.
But there is another consequence of emptier highways that could explain the spike in traffic deaths. Police report that the emptier roads have encouraged those who are still driving regularly to speed. Speeding leads to car accidents, especially extreme speeding. Officers say they have pulled over many more motorists going over 100 mph than usual. In one case, a man was ticketed for going 180 mph.
Speeding is always dangerous
Even when there are fewer cars, trucks and SUVs on the road, speeding is still reckless driving. The faster a driver is going, the less time they have to react to stopped traffic ahead of them. Speeders can also lose control on sharp turns and wet, icy or gravelly roads. Safe drivers know to slow down for unsafe conditions, but speeding ignores this rule in favor of “getting there sooner” or treating public streets and highways like racecourses.
Motor vehicle accidents caused by speeding can injure the speeder, but they can also leave innocent victims with serious injuries. In the worst cases, victims are killed due to a speeder’s negligent decisions.