GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With traffic deaths rising in Michigan and across the country, state traffic safety experts are closely looking at President Joe Biden’s new plan to make roads safer.

The plan includes lowering some speed limits, re-designing roads, using automated cameras for speed enforcement and building safer cars. At top of the list: fixing driver behavior — “safer people.”

“There’s no single answer as to why traffic fatalities are going up,” Kendall Wingrove, spokesman for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, said. “It’s like pieces of a puzzle, and it’s very complex, and there’s no one thing that would solve it all.”

Michigan traffic deaths peaked in 1969 at nearly 2,500, then steadily went downhill, until dropping in 2009 to 871 — the lowest since the Prohibition days of the 1920s.

Experts say that was thanks in large part to seat belt laws, air bags and anti-lock brakes.

Then, came the pandemic which has seen numbers topping out at more than 1,000 a year, the most in more than a decade.

“The numbers have been heading in the wrong direction,” Wingrove said.

Part of it, he said, is there are fewer people wearing seatbelts, more speeding and bad behavior.

Fifteen years ago, about 98% of Michiganders wore seatbelts, Wingrove said. That’s dropped to about 92%.

“There’s actually been a feeling of doing more reckless behavior, and I don’t know what’s unleashed that,”  Wingrove said. “The hardest group to reach is those 18- to 34-year-old males, and the subsection of that is 18-to 34-year-old males who drive pickup trucks.”

Michigan State University Foundation Professor Peter Savolainen, who has studied traffic safety for 20 years, wonders what role the pandemic has played.

“I would speculate that a lot of the people who are tending to drive faster and tending to drink and drive, and tending to not buckle their seat belt are probably the same persons…who are sick of government intervention in various forms,” he said. “I don’t want to go down that political rabbit hole but that’s inevitably where this leads.”

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning is still going through the Biden plan, which, among other things, calls for finding new ways to set speed limits, re-designing roads to force drivers to slow down, enhancing car safety features such as automatic emergency braking, and pushing for automated speed enforcement cameras, which aren’t allowed under Michigan law.

“There’s no golden bullet, or silver bullet per se here,” the MSU professor said. “It’s really a combination of different strategies.”

This plan, he says, is a starting point for something that’s been a continuing public health disaster.

“Every year we have nearly 40,000 people die on our (U.S.) roads, and you see very scant coverage of that. If there’s a plane crash, and I don’t mean to trivialize that, and 400 people die, that’s on the news for weeks or months,” Savolainen said.