ALPENA — Slowing down and stopping to think could keep Northeast Michigan residents from being part of an alarming national statistic, police say.
More people have died on US roads in the first nine months of 2021 than in the same period of any year since 2006, according to an analysis of traffic data released this week by the US Department of Transportation. .
While accidents in and around Alpena rarely result in fatalities, people do die on local roads. In 2020, the latest year for which the Michigan State Police is making data available, six people died in crashes in northeast Michigan.
Drivers could prevent such accidents by following basic traffic rules, say police officers who respond to local crashes each week.
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Alpena Police Department officers responded to 257 crashes in the 365 days of 2021, more than double the number of crashes in the city in 2020.
Some of those crashes can be attributed to congestion caused by a long-term detour during construction of the Bagley Street bridge, said Lt. Eric Hamp of the Alpena Police Department.
Before the bridge closed, however, and before COVID-19-related lockdowns resulted in bare streets and fewer accidents than usual in 2020, Alpena police officers responded to roughly the same number of accidents each year than in 2021, according to data from Michigan Traffic Accident Facts.
This consistency indicates, Hamp acknowledged, that city drivers routinely engage in behavior that leads to crashes that could injure or even end lives.
“When you’re not paying attention to the road, bad things can happen,” Hamp said, noting that police regularly observe drivers distracted by vibrations, ringtones, flashes of light and irresistible messages coming from their phones. , watches and vehicle dashboards.
Local police respond to crashes at least every other day, Michigan State Police-Alpena Post Trooper Jordan Stone said while patrolling area roads on Friday.
Before the pandemic shutdowns, northeast Michigan had an average of 2,400 crashes and six road deaths each year.
In 2020, despite a 27% reduction in crashes, six people again died on Alpena-area roads, according to Michigan State Police.
Some local crashes happen because drivers don’t follow simple traffic rules, like checking carefully before pulling out of a driveway, Stone said.
Drivers driving what the soldier calls “half-ton missiles” can afford to wait an extra 15 seconds for an oncoming car to pass, he said, or can do be careful when navigating turns, an action that Stone says regularly causes crashes.
“You can end a life with a vehicle,” Stone said. “You can end your life.
The last thing drivers who have just been in an accident want is a ticket, but he gives them crashes anyway, because the police have to send a message that not being careful or not following the rules of the road is not is not acceptable, he said.
These reminders could make a driver think twice next time and possibly save a life, Stone said.
“Slow down,” he said. “Be careful. Follow the law. It will work.
In 2020, the latest year for which MSP makes data available, crashes killed 1,083 people on Michigan roads and injured more than 60,000, damaging 200,000 vehicles.
As of Tuesday, 77 people — including an Alcona County resident — have died in crashes on Michigan highways this year, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.