Detroit receives $24.8 million aimed at reducing traffic fatalities, install License Plate Readers

The city of Detroit will receive a $24.8 million federal grant to redesign existing transportation infrastructure in high crash areas in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities. The news comes on the heels of the city’s announcement that it would be installing surveillance cameras on major highways in an attempt to crackdown on crime.

The $24.8 million aid comes from the Safe Streets and Roads for All Grant Program which is awarding $800 million across the country towards 510 in grant awards for 510 projects.

The competitive grant program, established by Pres. Biden’s 2021 infrastructure law provides $5 billion over five years for regional, local, and Tribal initiatives – from redesigned roads to better sidewalks and crosswalks – to prevent deaths and serious injuries on the nation’s roadways. A data visualization tool also shows crash hotspots.

The grants follows data that shows traffic fatalities reaching a 16-year high in 2021. A new report shows the economic impact of traffic crashes was $340 billion in 2019 alone.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways.” 

Additionally, the traffic fatalities in the following categories showed relatively large increases in 2021, as compared to 2020: 

  • Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes up 16% 
  • Fatalities on urban roads up 16% 
  • Fatalities among drivers 65 and older up 14% 
  • Pedestrian fatalities up 13% 
  • Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck up 13% 
  • Daytime fatalities up 11% 
  • Motorcyclist fatalities up 9% 
  • Bicyclist fatalities up 5% 
  • Fatalities in speeding-related crashes up 5% 
  • Fatalities in police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes up 5% 

“Every year, crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives.”

The Safe Streets and Roads for All program grants aim to reduce the number of roadway deaths. Action plan grants assist communities that do not currently have a roadway safety plan in place to reduce roadway fatalities, laying the groundwork for a comprehensive set of actions. Implementation grants provide funding for communities to implement strategies and projects that will reduce or eliminate transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries.

License Plate Readers

The federal grant aimed at helping Detroit’s roadways comes after the news that Michigan State Police are also stepping in with their own initiatives.

Earlier this month the state agency announced that it would be installing License Plate readers along some of the major freeways in order to crack down on shootings and road rage incidents, which have increased in previous years.

Shootings on the Detroit area freeways have seen a surge since the beginning of the pandemic. According to Michigan Police, there were 59 shootings in 2020 and 2021. Data for 2022 is still not yet available.

The License Plate Readers have already been installed along Southfield Freeway and I-96, with further plans to install more of them along the Detroit corridor of I-94.

Michigan Police says the License Readers will only have a database that goes back 30 days. The data would only be used to solve crimes such as shootings. The readers will not be used to catch drivers committing traffic violations, as the cameras do not detect speed.

License Plate Readers have raised privacy and profiling concerns in other communities that have installed them, leading to the American Civil Liberties Union proposing guidelines for law enforcement agencies to follow, including banning facial recognition.

Michigan Police are hoping to have the cameras installed throughout Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties by the end of 2023.

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