Our roads get riskier; only you can help

Automakers and government regulators tell us that vehicles are safer than they’ve ever been. One agency’s video shows a modern sub-compact car colliding with a large, full-size sedan from the early 1970s, when bigger meant safer. The mini-car tears the wide-body classic in half, and the dummies inside the new car would have walked away from the accident.

So why are our highways becoming so much more dangerous?

For the second year in a row, the Michigan State Police are reporting a 10 percent increase in highway fatalities for 2016. The 1,064 people who died on Michigan roads last year represent the largest number in a decade and continue a trend that only seems to be accelerating.

Crashes were up from 2015 to 2016, injuries were up, and fatalities were up — from 963 to 1,064.

There is some good news in the grim statistics. Alcohol-involved highway fatalities fell 11 percent. The number of fatalities involving young drivers ages 16 to 20 fell 7 percent year over year. But there is bad news, too. The number of crashes, injuries and deaths involving drivers who are impaired by drugs appears to be increasing, the State Police report.

Then there are statistics to blame. Analysts suggest that highways here and across the country are becoming more hazardous simply because more of us are driving, and we’re driving more. That’s because the rebounding economy puts more people on the road going to jobs, shopping and recreation. And lower gasoline prices make all that more affordable.

But we also have to believe a larger factor involved is that we are losing our driving skills. Even if we know what we are doing behind the wheel, we are not doing it because we are distracted by cell phones, text messages, vehicle dashboards full of complicated dashboards and the breakfast we picked up at the drive-through window. We’d all be better drivers if only we paid attention to driving while we were doing it.

Attitudes toward each other and toward the laws designed to protect us are also slipping. Aggressive and hostile driving, coupled with disregard for simple protective devices like red lights and stop signs put everyone at risk.

Yes, it is always the other guy. Just remember the first person to arrive at your next traffic collision will probably be you.

— Times Herald (Port Huron)

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