Michigan State Police warning drivers to wear their seatbelts

Traffic fatalities peak over 1,000 for first time in three years
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan State Police are worried that, even as traffic fatalities are rapidly increasing from last year, they are finding less Michiganders are wearing their seatbelts. Michigan has the lowest rate of seat belt usage in the last 17 years.

“The numbers are moving in the wrong direction and it’s very concerning,” said Communications Manger for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, Kendall Wingrove.

Seat belt use has declined almost two percent from 2019 to 2021. The state is now at its lowest compliance rate since 2004. Traffic fatalities in 2020 hit over 1,000 fatalities for the first time in three years, a 10 percent increase from the year prior.

“During the pandemic where we had a lot of people working from home, but you still had a portion of the Michigan population that was traveling on the highways. It seemed they took it upon themselves to say, ok there is not much traffic out here, I’m good to go, and travel at a high rate of speed, and again when you travel at a high rate of speed and if there were to be a traffic crash, that’s when deaths would occur and that’s what we saw,” said Michigan State Police Lieutenant, Brian Oleksyk.

The Michigan office of highway safety planning said seat belt usage and traffic crash fatalities do have an impact on one another.

“The lower seatbelt compliance rate is definitely a factor in the increase in traffic fatalities, but it’s not the only factor. Excessive speeding is another,” Wingrove said.

As a result of that, the Michigan State Police are trying to help prevent drivers from speeding.

“We are out there in high visibility. When you have law enforcement officers that are out there on the freeways and roadways, it reminds people to buckle up. Our goal is to be highly visible, we are out there day-to-day to prevent and/or reduce traffic crashes,” Lt. Oleksyk said.

However, the Michigan State police, and the office of highway safety planning are concerned, fearing their tactics may not be working.

“Already in 2021 we are seeing a higher fatality rate among the preliminary numbers than we are in 2020. We are moving in the wrong direction, we need to educate people more and encourage them to wear their seatbelt every trip, every time,” Wingrove said.

The Michigan office of highway safety planning says that every one percent increase in seat belt use means about 10 fewer traffic deaths and 100 fewer serious injuries.

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