Michigan once led the nation in the rate of seat belt use. State Police say 98 percent of all motorists wore seat belts in 2009. In 2016, the rate dropped to 94.5 percent, pushing Michigan behind 11 other states. As Memorial Day weekend approaches, that trend is worrisome to law enforcement and the travel industry.
Anne Readett of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning says today’s vehicles have so many safety features that people forget the need to buckle up.
“The seat belt is still the primary safety feature,” Readett says. “All the other safety features are designed to work in conjunction with a person being buckled up.”
The state police department has begun its annual “Click-It-Or-Ticket” campaign. From now until June 4, troopers will be citing motorists who aren’t using seat belts.
AAA is joining the effort to increase seat belt use this summer. Spokeswoman Susan Hiltz says sometimes drivers take seat belts for granted.
“I think it’s just a matter of reminding folks,” Hiltz says.
The auto club is working with state, county, and local police agencies, and the Detroit Tigers on a new summer safety campaign called “Bases Loaded For a Safe Summer”. The effort will encourage drivers to minimize distractions such as cell phones and watch their speeds. Michigan has raised the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on some of the main freeways in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula, including I-75 between Bay City and Mackinaw City. Hiltz says she’s concerned the higher limit could lead to more crashes.
“If it’s 75, don’t go 85,” Hiltz says.
AAA is forecasting more than 1.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend. That would be the highest volume since 2006. Hiltz says more than 90 percent will drive to their destinations, and may be paying a little less for fuel than the same period in 2016.
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.