ESCANABA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Department of Transportation says they made strides towards increasing safety on roads in the Upper Peninsula despite increasing traffic fatalities and injuries around the country.

MDOT says their efforts are part of the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) efforts. The department has collaborated with law enforcement officials and first responders to promote the highway safety strategy. MDOT’s Superior Region has also addressed safety concerns with specific road projects and system-wide improvements according to MDOT.

“Safety is the top priority at MDOT and we continue to integrate safety features into the design and planning of upcoming projects,” said Jason DeGrand, region operations engineer. “This year, access management efforts on road projects around the U.P. helped improve safety.”

Projects in Manistique, Wakefield and Munising tackled access management by closing or consolidating dozens of driveways and creating intersection improvements. MDOT says that reducing the number of access points on a highway has many safety benefits. It decreases the number of conflict points, locations vehicles are entering and exiting the flow of traffic, reducing the potential for crashes.

“We regularly incorporate access management principles into the designs of our urban and suburban projects,” explained Justin Junttila, region traffic and safety engineer with MDOT. “Limiting access reduces the number of conflict points, the locations where vehicle paths merge or cross, thereby reducing the crash potential.”

Junttila says that access management also lowers the potential for rear-end crashes by lessening the slowing and stopping of vehicles.

“On roadway sections with multiple lanes, there is lowered potential for sideswipe crashes involving vehicles that are changing lanes when left-turning traffic is stopped in their lane.” Junttila said. “Access management results in better traffic progression due to less slowing and stopping of vehicles, both in two-lane, two-way sections, and three-lane sections with a shared center left-turn lane.”

Toward Zero Death Projects over the year also included:

  • Installation of delineators on M-117 in Mackinac County from US-2 to the Luce County Line. The four-foot-high reflectors help prevent lane departure crashes, the most common fatal crash in the U.P.
  • Mumble strips were also installed on 350 miles of state highway across the region. Mumble strips are variable-depth rumble strips that can be used on narrower asphalt shoulders, less than 6 feet. They create less noise outside the vehicle while alerting the driver.

As of December 7, 2021 1,067 people died on roadways in 2021 an increase of 101 over the number of deaths in 2020. 5,379 people were seriously injured.

“This year’s trend is concerning, but it shows how important it is to continue to push toward zero deaths.” said Junttila. “MDOT will continue to work on specific projects and system-wide efforts to build a safer transportation network for all users.”

Next year one of the initiatives MDOT is planning is to add more capabilities to roadside environmental sensor stations. The initiative can help increase safety by helping MDOT prioritize winter maintenance activities and alerting drivers to weather conditions along their planned routes.