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Michigan crashes: Deaths fall in 2023, work zone accidents up. What to know

 Semi trucks and cars in traffic jam on northbound I 75 heading into Detroit, Michigan.
Traffic crashes and fatalities were down overall in Michigan in 2023 but the number of accidents and fatalities in work zones rose for the third year in a row. (iStock photo by ehrlif)
  • Traffic fatalities in Michigan fell for the second year in a row but remain well above recent averages
  • Crashes in work zones in 2023 were 38% higher than in 2019
  • Alcohol and drugs were factors in 40% of fatal crashes

After a jump in fatal car crashes during the COVID-19 pandemic, overall crashes and fatalities declined in Michigan in 2023 — though work zone incidents have spiked with the increase in construction.

Data released this week by the Michigan State Police shows that, in 2023, both traffic crashes and fatalities decreased 2%.


In all, 1,095 people died last year in Michigan in crashes. That’s down from 1,123 in 2022, but still 13% above the six-year average of 903 from 2014 to 2019.

Speeding and reckless driving remain the most common factors in fatal crashes. Speeding was cited in 9% of all crashes but 20% of all fatal ones. 

Reckless driving is cited in just 1% of all crashes but 10% of all fatal ones, according to the report.

Here are six things of note from the new report.


Alcohol crashes, deaths down

Nearly 40% of all fatal crashes in Michigan involve alcohol or drugs, according to the state. 

But the number of alcohol or drug-involved fatal crashes is down 4% and fatalities down 2%.

Yet the average number of annual alcohol or drug-related fatalities since the pandemic began in 2020, 464, is 14% higher than the six-year average before the pandemic.

Work zone crashes rise 

With repairs increasing to fix the state’s notoriously poor roads, work zone crashes again jumped, up 8% in 2023 and 38% since 2019.


The number of fatalities in work zones rose from 17 in 2019 to 24 last year, a 41% increase.

In 2019, there were 5,808 crashes in work zones. That jumped to 8,017 last year.

Crash trends not uniform

Although the state recorded a drop in traffic crashes and fatalities, some counties saw increases and others recorded more steep declines.

Parts of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula reported bigger decreases while much of southeast Michigan reported increases.


Pedestrian deaths tie record

Since the pandemic, highway safety advocates have worried about the steep rise in pedestrian deaths, which rose 61% from 2012 to 2022.

Nationally, pedestrian deaths declined 5.4% in 2023. 


However, in Michigan, they rose 6% to 183, tying the recent high from 2021 and substantially higher than the 149 recorded in 2019.


    Traffic fatalities rise after long decline

    For two decades, traffic fatalities steadily fell in Michigan, from 1,537 in 1995 to 871 in 2009.


    But since 2014, traffic deaths have inched up and rose to 1,131 in 2021 before declining the past two years.


        Distracted driving

        Finally, the report noted that distracted driving — which Michigan lawmakers passed tougher laws to discourage in 2023 — accounted for just over 5% of all crashes. 

        The law, which requires hands-free phone use while driving, took effect in July 2023. 

        Over the full year, there were 15,136 crashes involving distracted drivers, down 2% from 2022 and the second consecutive year of declines.

        However, the 59 distracted driving fatalities in 2023 were up from 57 in 2022 and the same as the state reported in 2021.

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