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Where were the most Michigan roundabout accidents in 2017?

May 24, 2018 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan drivers either LOVE or HATE that roundabouts that have been popping up around the state of Michigan. Some people are fearful or confused while driving through, causing an increase in the number of roundabout accidents. However, others love being able to zip through quickly and fully understand the rules of the roundabouts.

As I noted in my blog post, “New Michigan Roundabouts coming to an intersection near you,” this Spring and Summer will welcome the beginning of construction to transform 20 existing intersections into new roundabouts.

So, we feel it’s only fair to list where the most roundabout accidents occur with our Top 10 list, according to the Michigan State Police.

Michigan Roundabout Accidents Top 10 List for 2017

Our attorneys have analyzed data gathered and collected by the Michigan State Police to identify the following list of Michigan’s Top 10 accident roundabouts for last year.

Rank Intersection Total Crashes Injury Crashes Only
Sterling Heights, Macomb County
165 13
Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield Twp, Oakland County
144 24
Commerce Twp, Oakland County
142 9
Ann Arbor/Pittsfield Twp, Washtenaw County
110 2
West Bloomfield Twp, Oakland County
77 4
Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield, Oakland County
76 3
Green Oak Twp, Livingston County
64 4
Rochester Hills, Oakland County
53 6
9 26 MILE RD @ M 53
Washington Twp/Shelby Twp, Macomb County
53 3
Commerce Twp, Oakland County
47 0

Source: Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Reporting Unit

(Note: Roundabouts constructed in 2017 are not included on this list. A full year of data is necessary before a roundabout can be evaluated for whether it should be included in our annual list.)

No. 1: Van Dyke Avenue (M-53) and 18 1/2 Mile Road – Sterling Heights

Jumping to the top of the list is a congested area where M-53/Van Dyke traffic is exiting onto the roundabout near the Ford Van Dyke plant. Going from 92 crashes in 2016 to 165 crashes last year equaled an 80% spike in just one year. Injury crashes also went up from just 4 in 2016 to 13 crashes that were reported last year. What makes this increase even more surprising is this roundabout was installed in 2005 so local drivers have been navigating this area for years. Other than an increase in traffic, it is difficult to pinpoint what else has changed in this area to contribute to such a big jump in crashes.

No. 2:  Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads – Farmington Hills/West Bloomfield

Last year’s top car crash intersection in the state saw 144 crashes compared to 163 in 2016 – a welcome reduction. Injury crashes improved only slightly with 24 reported crashes last year compared to 27 in 2016. One factor in 2017 that likely contributed to these crashes was an increase in traffic volume as Orchard Lake Road north of the roundabout was under construction and many drivers detoured through 14 Mile Road to avoid the congestion.  As local drivers become more comfortable with this roundabout, we hope to see the numbers continue to decline.

No. 3: Pontiac Trail and M-5/Martin Parkway – Commerce Township

Holding at a steady pace is the largest roundabout in the state with 142 crashes in 2017 compared to 144 in 2016. There was a slight increase in overall injury crashes with 9 last year compared to 6 in 2016. As a major artery that connects the growing northern suburbs with area freeways, heavy vehicle volumes will not be subsiding anytime soon as recent news of an upcoming retail and entertainment complex on the northeast corner of this roundabout will generate additional traffic concerns.

No 4: State Street and Ellsworth Road – Ann Arbor/Pittsfield Township

The total number of crashes for this area continues to decrease each year and even more impressive is just two injury crashes occurred in an entire year. That figure is far below average and confirms the statistics shared in numerous blog posts that roundabouts remain a much safer alternative to traffic signal intersections.

No. 5: Farmington and Maple Road –West Bloomfield

Just one mile northwest of the number two roundabout for crashes, this area sees significant traffic volume as well. With an increase from 57 crashes in 2016 to 77 crashes in 2017, this roundabout fortunately had a decrease in injury crashes. In 2017, Orchard Lake Road at Maple was under heavy construction with many other local roads closed or re-routed as well. This increase in crashes is likely the result of higher than usual traffic detouring through the area.

Are roundabouts safer?

Roundabouts are known to reduce speeds but they also increase low damage car crashes where no injuries are reported at the scene of the accident. So, the real question is – are roundabouts safer when they increase the number of lower vehicle damage crashes? In our experience, lower vehicle damage crashes in roundabouts and/or intersections are dangerous and can result in serious injuries to the victims of those accidents.

There are some who would argue that these costly roundabout road projects, that are resulting in far more car crashes, should not be called dangerous. They argue that it’s not dangerous because an ambulance was not called to the scene.

There may be lots of car accidents, they argue, but that doesn’t mean these roundabouts are dangerous.

This couldn’t be more wrong.

There’s a reason why emergency rooms and surgeons never ask to look at vehicle damage photos before deciding to render care.

Yes, people are more likely to be seriously injured or killed at the scene of an accident during a high impact crash but the scientific and medical literature is very clear that people can be killed or seriously injured in a lower impact or even no vehicle damage car crash.

Putting on my auto accident lawyer hat, here’s why:

In any one individual instance, there can never be a meaningful relationship between damage to a car and the injury potential of a person involved in a car accident. A car accident victim who suffered injury in a low visible property damage might well fall into the 5% of the population who would have been injured by that car crash, but that can never be known until after the car accident has occurred, and only after the victim has already suffered injury. That 5% number is also an average based upon the population itself. That number can change. Five percent can become 20% or 50% or even higher based upon factors like age, height, weight, whether there has been a prior injury, susceptibility to injury based upon degenerative changes, seat position and height, whether the head was turned at impact or not, and dozens of other variables.

The fact that an accident victim is not rushed by ambulance from the crash scene to the hospital is not proof that an injury did not occur. An ambulance at the scene may be consistent with the likelihood of a more serious injury, but long-lasting, life-altering injuries – such as traumatic brain injuries and disk herniations that go on to require surgery – do not always manifest themselves immediately at the scene of a car accident. They’re not always immediately apparent.

Brain injury is a process, not an event. There is a large group of people in our population who are incredibly susceptible to brain injury from car accidents. For this group of people who are more susceptible, likely due to genetic predisposition, the damage to the brain continues to occur for hours, days, and sometimes even weeks after a traumatic event.

I’ve found that people who are injured in a car crash often do not immediately report pain at the scene of the crash. Yet, every year, there are people who die in car accidents who appeared initially uninjured at the scene.

Then there are the thousands of people (yes, thousands) who go on to have major disk surgery, but who appeared perfectly fine right after the crash.

How to use a roundabout safely in Michigan

Driver education is a critical component of driving a roundabout safely. We’ve seen an increase in recent initiatives by local law enforcement to monitor roundabout drivers and provide needed education. Hopefully these efforts, along with other Michigan safety initiatives, will help drivers navigate these intersections with less overall car crashes throughout the state.

To learn how to safely drive through a roundabout you can also visit our Roundabout Resource Center to view “How To Survive Roundabouts” infographic, an interactive map and videos on roundabout safety.

We also invite you to visit our Michigan Dangerous Intersections page for a complete list of intersection car crashes, including roundabouts, that can be searched by any Michigan city or county.

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