Be alert as clocks 'spring forward'

With the time change happening this weekend, the Michigan Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to watch out for pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and students waiting for the bus.

LANSING — This weekend clocks "spring forward" but that also means for a short time the mornings will be darker later. 

For that reason, the Michigan Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to watch out for pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and students waiting for the bus. The time change daylight saving time occurs at 2 a.m. Sunday.

Regardless of the time change, drivers also are reminded that bicyclists are permitted to ride on most roadways in Michigan but bicyclists are reminded as legal roadway users they are required to obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals. A person operating a bicycle upon a highway or street at less than the existing speed of traffic shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

"Driving through school zones becomes more challenging for motorists during the first week of the time change," Michigan Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba said. "Pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists should wear brighter, reflective clothing in order to be seen more easily, and those behind the wheel need to pay close attention and eliminate distractions while driving."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,977 pedestrians and 783 cyclists died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. The majority of pedestrian fatalities occurred during dark conditions between 6 p.m.-5:59 a.m., according to the NHTSA.

MDOT is working with partners statewide on the Toward Zero Deaths safety campaign based on the National Strategy on Highway Safety, which is intended to influence driver behavior and improve safety 

Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads reached an estimated 40,000 in 2018, the third year in a row in which at least that many people died in vehicle crashes, according to new figures from the National Safety Council. The 2018 total represents a decline of just 231 deaths — roughly 1 percent — from road deaths in 2017 but a 14 percent increase from just four years ago, according to the safety advocacy group.

Research has shown that safety technologies such as automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems can result in fewer crashes, but those technologies are only present in relatively few vehicles on the road, said Ken Kolosh, National Safety Council director of statistics.

“There is definitely evidence that these systems are preventing crashes,‘ he said, noting “they’re probably not at the critical mass yet to see them having an impact on the overall macro level.‘

While it’s too early to understand the precise trends behind 2018 deaths, other research has shown fatalities linked to drunk driving, speeding and cell phone use behind the wheel are trending down. Other risks may be emerging, however, such as impairment from mixing alcohol and marijuana in states that have legalized the drug, and drivers using in-vehicle infotainment systems, Kolosh said.

For more information on the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, visit www.Michigan.gov/ZeroDeaths.

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