MI officials aim to curb reckless driving after increased deaths

NOW: MI officials aim to curb reckless driving after increased deaths

NILES, Mich. -- With less traffic on roads throughout the pandemic, Michigan has seen fewer car accidents this year – yet, there are actually more fatal crashes happening.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety has been following this pattern since stay-at-home orders started in March and said that less cars out on the road is actually contributing to speeding and reckless driving.

The agency reported Tuesday that 29 people died on roadways just this past week, bringing the total to 826 this year – up 61 from this time last year.

They’re now asking people to once again prioritize safe driving – avoiding things like texting, which is illegal in Michigan – and other dangerous behaviors.

“We have seen a decrease in crashes but an increase in fatal crashes and that’s kind of alarming for us so we’d like to remind people that there’s four easy things you can do – buckle up, slow down, sober up and put your phone down – and if you do those things it’ll go a long way in keeping you, people in your car and the people on the road with you safe,” said Jon Ross, Communications Specialist for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety.

Local law enforcement agencies are also cracking down on school bus safety this week, as the Michigan Office of Highway Safety says October has become a dangerous time of year for students getting on and off the bus.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police Niles Post are among 20 agencies that have committed to participating in a statewide initiative, Operation Safe Stop, by increasing patrols around pick-up and drop-off times to stop illegal passing of school buses.

This is Operation Safe Stop’s first year, the Michigan Office of Highway Safety started the initiative after 2019 saw the highest number of citations issued for people not stopping for school buses, at 2,100.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office warned drivers in a press release that they could face a civil infraction of up to $500 and perform 100 hours of community service at a school for failing to stop for buses.

Operation Safe Stop also coincides with School Bus Safety week, as officials say October seems to be a time where drivers get lax around these vehicles.

“We still need to slow down when we see flashing yellows, we need to stop when we see flashing reds, when you see that big arm that swings out on the side with the stop sign on it, and in Michigan, that’s both directions unless it’s a divided highway,” said Ross. “We talk about illegally passing a school bus and a lot of people think passing means coming from behind and going around it but it could also mean coming from the other direction and not stopping.”

The increased patrols for Operation Safe Stop run through Oct. 23 but officials hope drivers will apply these safer habits long term.

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