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MDOT handing out orange vests in effort to reduce fatal crashes

MDOT handing out orange vests in effort to reduce fatal crashes.

GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN.WGTU) -- To help reduce the number of fatal crashes in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation north region is handing out range neon vests to pedestrians.

It's an idea that supports the statewide initiative, Toward Zero Deaths.

MDOT reached out to Grand Traverse Metro Fire to help with handing out the vests.

“A lot of people use the sidewalks when they are available in the summertime, but as you know with the snow... sidewalks easily get plowed over so people resort to the easiest path and that usually is the roadway,” says Grand Traverse Metro Assistant Fire Chief Steve Apostal.

Before and after work are popular times for people to take a walk, and this time of year, it can be very dark.

But regardless of the season, deadly pedestrian accidents remain a big concern.

According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, of the 2,411 pedestrians involved in vehicle crashes in 2017, 158 (6.6%) were killed and 1,945 (80.7%) were hurt.

After looking very closely at these crash reports, MDOT noticed two common factors.

“One of them was that they are walking the wrong way in the roadway, instead of facing traffic they had their back to traffic," said MDOT north region manager, Richard Liptak. "One of the other things he noticed was that in many cases they blended in with the background and they weren’t very visible.”

One of MDOT's operations engineers in Gaylord came up with the idea to hand out the orange vests, and decided to get law enforcement involved too since they spend a lot of time on the roads.

“We hope to hand these out and we hope people that get them will actually take it to heart and use them,” says Asst. Chief Apostal.

While some clothes do have reflective gear built in, a vest is still recommended.

"When you’re driving down the road you can see people's small reflective items on their shoes, but with distracted driving and everything else that might not be noticeable to some drivers,” said Asst. Chief Apostal.

Depending on a few factors such as headlights and eyesight, the MDOT vests being handed out can be seen from 100 yards away.

"The reflective area is of a width wide enough to really draw and get a good reflective look," says Liptak. "The different colors help contrast different weather conditions and things like that."

Right now, handing out the vests could be considered a trial run in MDOT's 21 north counties to see if it actually makes a difference.

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