I’ll never forget my first love. Our eyes first met when I was 17 and extremely impressionable. She was seven, but the age difference didn’t seem to matter. Her skin was velvet, her body was the color of the Gulf of Mexico and she had a moon roof that seemed to extend for days. She didn’t have a name, and she didn’t have much to say. My friends and family liked to call her 2003 Ford Taurus. She gave me everything I had ever wanted: freedom.
Using my new job at Jimmy John’s as leverage, I had finally convinced my parents that I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of my own car. Looking back, I’m pretty sure they were just tired of chauffeuring around my pre-teen brothers.
I believe in life after love, but that didn’t make losing my Taurus any easier. The last day we spent together feels like yesterday. It was a freezing February afternoon, and we were heading home after a long day at Andover High School. A mile from home and bumping Jason Derulo’s “In My Head,” we turned right onto the winding west side of Hickory Grove Road. About 30 feet ahead, a Toyota Sequoia, bearing a striking resemblance to the grim reaper, was backing toward us on the wrong side of the road. Taurus was a fighter, but she was no match for black ice. I pumped her breaks with desperation as she honked for life. It was too late. At a speed of just 25 miles per hour, we slid 30 feet and collided into the Toyota, which made out with just a scratch. My car now resembled a pile of scrap metal.
After dialing 911, the officer neglected to write the driver of the Toyota a reckless driving ticket, because legally both of us were at fault. Although I was obeying the speed limit at 25 miles per hour, I was not driving “safely for the conditions.” The conditions of course, being an unsalted, pothole-ridden residential ice rink disguised as a road. I’m not the first, or last, Michigander to fall victim to Michigan’s dangerous roads. According to Michigan State Police, in 2013, 289,061 crashes were reported to the police in Michigan: 0.3 percent of these accidents resulted in fatalities, 18 percent resulted in injury and 82 percent resulted in property damage.
Injury aside, as a teen I was extremely fortunate to have parents who financed both my car and the insanely expensive auto-insurance that comes along with every teenage driver in Michigan. In Michigan, drivers are legally required to purchase a minimum basic no-fault auto insurance. As of 2012, the average driver in Michigan paid $1,048.87 per year for auto insurance. Insurance rates are even more for teenage drivers, who are statistically most likely to be involved in an accident. In Detroit, the average law abiding driver pays $5,941 per year for no-fault auto insurance, the highest rate of any city in the United States Detroit Police estimate that 60 percent of drivers in Detroit are uninsured, and risk paying a $200 to $500 fine and a year in jail if caught driving without insurance.
Working Detroiters are expected to spend 23 percent of their income on no-fault auto insurance. No wonder the city has seen a declining population the entirety of my existence.
Sure it’s expensive, but if you pay for no-fault auto insurance, after an accident the insurance company pays to fix the car, right? Keep dreaming. Basic no-fault auto insurance in Michigan does not cover collision, and if you want it, expect to pay an additional premium. Collision insurance probably isn’t a wise investment when your car is worth about $3,500. No-fault auto insurance covers you in event of an auto injury, as well as property protection, which covers up to $1,000,000 in property damage. Keep in mind a car isn’t considered “property.”
Approximately 52,000 people were injured in auto accidents in Michigan in 2013, and 881 were killed. At a rate of 4.74 million registered vehicles in Michigan in 2012, Michiganders spent just under $5 billion on auto insurance.
I have a hard time believing that auto insurance companies rightfully awarded anywhere near that amount to accident victims. No wonder Flo from Progressive is always so irritatingly peppy.
Michiganders aren’t terrible drivers. North Carolina has a similar population to Michigan, and in 2013, their accident rate per licensed driver was 0.8 percent less than Michigan’s.
The average annual snowfall in Charlotte, North Carolina, is four inches. Detroit’s average annual snowfall is 11.05 times higher than North Carolina’s: 51 inches. We need to be spending more on preventative measures, like infrastructure, salt trucks and snowplows, and less gambling on potential health care expenses.
Lawmakers recently proposed a one-percent increase in Michigan’s sales tax, and voters will decide on this measure in May. If the tax passes, it will generate just over $1 billion in tax revenue to invest in our roads. No-fault auto insurance, forced on every driving Michigander, costs citizens more than $5 billion per year. If we used just one-fifth of this on our roads, we could probably prevent thousands of accidents from occurring in the first place. No-fault auto insurance paired with an increase in sales tax will financially cripple those already struggling in Michigan, especially in Detroit. If Michigan is going to increase sales tax to seven percent, we need to eliminate Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance requirement.
Lauren Richmond can be reached at email@example.com.