62 Michigan Schools Are Involved in a Safe Driving Program

Portrait of Young Man in his Car Showing Thumbs Up

Each year there are about 5.5 million car accidents that occur on U.S. roads. And unfortunately, a lot of those accidents involve teenage drivers. This is why 62 high schools throughout Michigan are participating in a driving program aimed to reduce the number of teens involved in traffic accidents.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning has a public-private partnership with Ford Driving Skills for Life. The program, called Strive For a Safer Drive (S4SD), gives funding to schools to promote education on safe driving.

Each school that partakes in the program will receive $1,000. Students have to design a campaign focusing on traffic safety that will be used to inform their fellow students about driving safety hazards and risks, including seat belt use, speeding, distracted driving, weather-related accidents, and drinking or impaired driving.

Once the campaign has been created, each school will submit a presentation that shows the main points throughout their campaign. Of the 62 participating schools, five campaigns will be chosen as winners and those schools will receive a cash prize between $500 and $1,500. Winning schools will also be allowed to send students to a free driving clinic to learn valuable skills from professional driving instructors.

According to Jim Graham, a global manager at Ford Driving Skills for Life, “Programs like Strive For a Safer Drive and Driving Skills for Life have been shown to be successful in helping young, novice drivers make smart decisions behind the wheel. Through hands-on learning, we hope to improve teen driver safety and decrease the risk that teen drivers pose to themselves and others.”

Programs like S4SD are in place to teach young drivers safe driving habits right from the start. Regrettably, a recent study has found that teen drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in an accident within three months after getting their license.

Researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) looked at traffic cameras and software that was installed in vehicles of the study participants. There were 90 teenagers and 131 parents involved in the study.

Along with having a higher risk of being in an accident, the study found that teenagers are four times more likely to try risky driving behaviors, like fast stopping, sharp turns, and burnouts, than they were when they were driving with their learner’s permit.

Fortunately, with the help of certain programs and technology, the roads are becoming safer. While technology like drones can help in industries like engineering and architecture, they can also help spot problems on the roads and even help control traffic. There are also efforts being made to improve road conditions and even start putting autonomous vehicles on the road. But it’s up to everyone on the road to ensure they’re driving their safest.

All in all, teenagers continue to be at a higher risk of being involved in a car accident when they first start driving on their own. The S4SD program shows that schools and organizations can come together to promote safe driving.

Michigan Motorists Must Avoid Drunk, Drowsy, and Distracted Driving This Holiday

The holiday season is all about celebration, but law enforcement and road safety advocates warn that you should be wary of going overboard with all the merriment.

According to AAA, a record number of Americans are set to travel this holiday season. The organization projects that 112.5 million travelers, or more than a third of all Americans in total, will be out on the roads (as well as on the rails, in the skies, and on the seas). Not only does this mean you could experience significant delays in getting to your destination, but it also means you could be more likely to be involved in an accident.

Drunk and drugged driving is prevalent in the U.S., with nearly 1.1 million drivers being arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in 2015. But those numbers tend to spike around the holidays, in particular. Law enforcement suggests that those who plan to consume alcohol around Christmas or New Year’s Eve should develop a plan in advance to avoid driving and to elect a designated driver or take advantage of services like Uber and Lyft.

In Michigan, recreational marijuana use has been legalized, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to get behind the wheel if you’re stoned. It’s also illegal to use marijuana while sitting in a parked vehicle or to let passengers smoke it inside the car. Many municipalities are cracking down on intoxicated drivers, as well. In Detroit, the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign is alive and well, which means there’s zero tolerance for intoxicated driving during this time of year. Just last year, 359 people in Michigan died in 320 alcohol-related crashes, breaking an already established record high from 2006. Since once of the three most common causes of car accidents in the U.S. is drunk driving, it’s no surprise that law enforcement isn’t taking the threat lightly.

Drunk driving isn’t the only concern, however. Distracted driving can take a significant toll, as well. At any given daylight moment in the U.S., nearly 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. Recently released smartphone data shows that distracted driving incidents may jump by as much as 33% during the holidays. The rates of sending text messages and even speeding also spiked during this period, which could be attributed to running late to Christmas dinner or expressing apologies for delays on New Year’s Day.

That’s a real problem, considering that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that nearly 3,500 people were killed and 391,000 others were injured in U.S. distracted driving accidents during 2016. It’s actually the number one killer of young people in the United States. In Michigan alone, distracted driving killed 72 people and injured more than 7,000 in 2017. Distracted driving accounted for 20,115 vehicle crashes in Michigan last year, all told. Since 64% of all Americans owned an iPhone or other Apple product in 2017 and smartphone ownership numbers are on the rise, those statistics are extremely scary. And while Michigan law is harsh on those who read, send, or type text messages while driving, it’s not only phone activities that can cause these accidents; eating, changing the radio station, or using a GPS to navigate are all distracted driving behaviors that can result in a crash.

There’s another type of dangerous driving behavior that’s on the rise in Michigan: drowsy driving. Many of us have probably gotten behind the wheel and realized too late that we should have had another cup of coffee or waited a while before trying to drive. But we might not be inclined to take these incidents seriously — although we should, according to sleep experts who say that this behavior is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Drowsy driving crashes in Michigan increased from 2016 to 2017, with 3,425 crashes being recorded as involving a fatigued or sleeping driver last year. They’re also more likely to be fatal than other types of dangerous driving behaviors, as sleeping drivers don’t have a chance to correct their mistakes before being involved in a collision.

To avoid all three types of hazardous driving behaviors, experts say to be proactive and err on the side of caution. If you feel too drowsy, you should refrain from driving or pull over immediately. Keep your phone away for the entirety of your drive and if you plan to drink, plan to get a safe ride home. With your help, it’s possible to make Michigan streets a whole lot safer this holiday season.

In Michigan Resort Towns, Housing Is Surprisingly Scarce

While the tourism and travel industry in Michigan may be booming, the housing market seems to be struggling. Resort towns throughout the state are seeing a decrease in available affordable housing, despite the success of the area’s primary economic driver.

Travel Industry Continues To Thrive

Northern Michigan counties that rely on tourism as a primary economic driver have been seeing continued economic success within those industries. Hotels continue to see guests at a high rate, with some new hotels needing to be built with ever-increasing speeds. Many hotel chains are even relying on modular construction to keep pace with the demand, with Mariott having pledged to modularly construct 13% of its North American developments in 2017.

This growth is encouraged by travel becoming easier, more affordable, and more accessible in recent years. More than three million people around the world fly safely on commercial aircraft every day, with many destined for resort towns like those in Northern Michigan. However, this booming tourist industry is not without its drawbacks.

Tourism Creating Housing Shortages?

With more people traveling to the area, there has been an increase in demand for affordable guest accommodations. This has resulted in a climate that has favored temporary, cheap housing over long-term housing for permanent residents.

In many areas in the state, homes that were once exclusively intended for long-term residents are now being converted to capitalize on the trend of renting private rooms and homes on apps and websites like AirBnB. These converted homes can contribute to an overall housing shortage, as homes that were once intended to be bought and lived in are now used as short-term rental property, reducing housing availability for permanent residents.

Additionally, the rate at which new homes are being constructed is shrinking. In order to meet the demands of the tourism industry, new home construction is slowing in favor of new guest accommodations. The Home Builders Association of Michigan suggests that in order to meet housing demands, 25,000 new homes should be constructed by the end of 2018. Unfortunately, they expect only 17,000 to be completed.

What This Could Mean For Michigan Housing

If you are lucky enough to find available housing, expect to pay heavily for it in the coming years. The average price for a single-family home in Michigan is rising in response to the lack of available housing supply, and will likely continue to do so into the future. The average price for a single-family home in one of these areas is expected to reach $277,542 by the end of this year, according to the Traverse Area Association of Realtors.

As available housing decreases, many are likely to seek alternatives to purchasing a home of their own, including long-term rentals or corporate housing. Around 40% of people who use corporate housing do so because they’re relocating; however, it’s possible this number could change as a result of housing market shifts.

As available housing continues to decrease as a result of tourism and travel industry trends, it remains uncertain what will happen to the existing housing market as a result. Michigan housing may continue to grow even more scarce unless a plan is put into place to reverse this worrying pattern.

Elon Musk Donates $480,000 To Flint Schools For Water Filtration

Several years after the initial announcement of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, someone has taken action to help the children in the city — and it probably isn’t who you’d expect. Elon Musk has gained a bit of an odd reputation due to his ridiculous (and potentially illegal) social media blunders, but the foundation he and his brother created in 2002 is not sharing that reputation; the Musk Foundation has donated $480,000 to implement water filtration systems in 12 Flint schools.

The donation was confirmed by Flint Community Schools’ administration in a tweet:

“Thank you @elonmusk and @MuskFoundation for investing in the health/future well-being [of] FCS Students! Your generous donation will help us replace ALL water fountains w/NEW WATER STATIONS and WATER FILTRATION at ALL SCHOOLS! Looking forward to our burgeoning partnership! More to come!”

Musk, whose donation is enough to cover the entire district — some 4,500 kids — responded simply:

“You’re most welcome. Hope to do more to help in the future.”

Around one in every eight people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water, but it sounds impossible that such a thing could happen on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, nearby factories and industrial plants can contaminate and revert the drinking water quality to a state similar to those in countries who are simply unable to filter it in the first place. Flint, which had once thrived as the home of the nation’s largest GM plant in the 1980s, is now feeling the backlash of the extensive use of chemicals decades ago.

Flint water had reached a lead level of 27 ppb (parts per billion), which is nearly twice the federal threshold. Earlier reports in 2018 had found most of Flint’s water to be around 6 ppb, but Musk’s donation is still essential: there are no federally regulated or acceptable safe lead levels for children, as any amount of exposure can cause physical and developmental damage with relative speed, whereas adults need to be exposed for longer periods of time before suffering debilitating effects.

Local Construction Causes Spike In Michigan Car Accidents

In Franklin and Bingham Farms, more and more people are getting into car accidents. From side swipes to outright crashes, these areas in Michigan have been fraught with unstable traffic. Police officers and responders think it’s likely due to the construction.

Compared to last year, the police department has recorded an increase of 20 more crashes.

“We only have a mile and a half of Telegraph Road, and it’s by far our biggest road, so being up 20 crashes is pretty significant for a small community like ours that is only 4.5 square miles,” reports Sgt. Mike Bastinelli.

The increased levels of traffic have cause more fender-bender damage. It’s unknown if the construction is the cause of the increase in accidents, but police officers have named it a likely culprit.

Michigan isn’t the only state witnessing an increase in crashes, however. A man from Jamestown, NY kicked off the month of July by causing three car accidents in the span of 15 minutes.

Ramon Pando was charged with several traffic violations and other charges including reckless driving; leaving the scene of a personal injury accident; leaving the scene of a property damage accident; and aggravated driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor in New York state.

Luckily, no one was killed in the multiple accidents caused by Pando’s reckless driving. Two people were transported to hospitals in an ambulance, but there are no other reports of injury. Pando is currently in the Chautauqua County Jail on $9,000 cash bail.

With more people on the road during the summer, motor vehicle safety is more important than ever. Although you might not be the cause of an accident, high-speed collisions and fender-benders are among the top four causes of auto body damage along with weather and negligence.

An automotive accident might call for repair and even cause your insurance rates to rise. In a new report by Forbes magazine, the face of the auto insurance industry might be changing in the coming years due to self-driving cars.

Self-driving automatic car manufacturers are likely going to offer car insurance through their own business, not relying on the consumer to pay a separate fee. They hope to increase the incentive to purchase self-driving cars by eliminating the need for a third party and by making insurance more affordable with accurate statistics regarding their self-driving cars.

It’s estimated that the industry revenue of auto insurance total of $259 billion last year alone. The self-driving car industry hopes to shake things up by making their self-driving car insurance standard across the board.

“Whether it’s a 16-year-old who just passed their driver’s license exam, a soccer mom with 15 years of accident-free driving or a retired senior, the price will be the same assuming the technology in the car is the same in all three scenarios,” explains Forbes.

Unfortunately, self-driving cars have not been able to help the rise in auto accidents in Michigan. While an estimated 77% of cars on the road need basic maintenance or repairs, this number is likely set to increase along with the rising number of cars on the road at this location.

Sgt. Bastinelli claims the best way to avoid getting into an accident during construction is to pay attention and have patience. While it might seem difficult to remain calm in traffic, following the rules of the road is the best way to stay safe during the seemingly unending summer construction.

Housing Now! Community Information Meeting Follow-up

Housing now! Make your voice heard!

We wanted to make sure to share a great one-stop-shop for all the resources we promised you tonight, thanks to our friends at the Eastown Community Association. Follow the link below to check out the talking points, the powerpoint, take a quick survey or send an email to your commissioner to share what you think!

We urge you all to voice your thoughts directly to our 2nd Ward Commissioners, Ruth Kelly and Joe Jones, whose contact information can be found at the link. At this link, you can also find a link to a survey, the results of which will be shared at the City Commission meeting tomorrow. Better yet, come to the City Commission meeting tomorrow at 7pm on the 9th floor of City Hall located at 300 Monroe NW and express yourself! At least one MNA representative will be in attendance as well.

Photo taken from the Housing Now! Community information meeting that happened earlier tonight. Photo credit: Eastown.org

The MNA is writing a letter to the City Commission at this very moment, and board approval is pending. We are still working toward the exact points of this letter, but the basics are what we heard from you, our neighbors! We’ve heard that you want affordable housing, but also want more community engagement and more data.

Take a look at the link below from eastown.org to get more information!


Grand Rapids Hopes to Reduce Carbon Footprint with Zero Cities Project

Grand Rapids, Michigan is taking a bold step towards reducing its carbon footprint. Grand Rapids is one of 12 cities that was selected to participate in the Zero Cities Project, which aims to reduce net carbon in the cities to zero by 2050.

Having zero net carbon means that buildings are either producing their own on-site energy, or they are purchasing enough renewable energy to meet the consumption demands of that building. In other words, they would no longer will be relying on energy that produces a lot of carbon as a result.

One great way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is using solar power, which is a major part of this project’s plan. The total solar power capacity in the United States reached up to 47.1 gigawatts in the middle of 2017. That is enough power to give electricity to 9.1 million homes. In the years to come, solar panels will be installed on several buildings in Grand Rapids in order to power them with the natural energy that is produced by solar panels.

Ultimately, the goal for Grand Rapids is to create a policy road map that will help work toward achieving a zero carbon building sector. First, city planners need to assess the city’s current sustainability projects and create a long-term plan for achieving its ambitious zero carbon goals. To do that, businesses will need to be incentivized to reduce their carbon footprint.

Alison Waske Sutter is Grand Rapids’ sustainability manager, and she described the city’s plan in an interview with Michigan Radio:

“The goal long term is to create a policy road map that will help us work toward achieving a zero carbon building sector. It’s really laid out, kind of in a three year plan, with this first year really focused attention on kind of evaluating our current policies, what type of incentives we have in place, and getting a handle on what is the carbon footprint of Grand Rapids’ building stock, so that’s our immediate focus right now.”

The city does not yet have a funding plan 100% put together for the project. They do know, however, that they plan on working in economic incentives to hopefully get business owners on board with the project.

While 2050 may seem far away, to meet their goals new policies will have to be put in place as soon as possible.

Grand Rapids Named 7th Best Market For House Flipping

Although the 2017 U.S. House Flipping Report shows that there are more flops than flips nationwide, the market in Grand Rapids seems to be much more favorable than most. In fact, Wallet Hub recently ranked the area as the seventh best in the nation for flipping homes.

Nearly 90% of real estate agents encourage homeowners to invest in landscaping prior to selling their properties, but it sounds like Michigan flippers have stumbled onto something more substantial than strategically planted shrubs and flowers. The main reason house flipping is so lucrative here is that real estate prices are relatively low, as are remodeling costs. According to WalletHub, the Grand Rapids remodeled home market is hot and offers a huge ROI.

Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst, explained in the report, “Grand Rapids median initial purchase prices are quite low at just $74,000, ranking 16th lowest. Because of the fairly low initial purchase price, flippers in Grand Rapids see a return of 75% on average.”
Grand Rapids also has the sixth lowest kitchen remodeling costs in the nation: on average, it sets homeowners back just over $16,000. Bathroom remodels are the 14th lowest in the country, averaging at $7,417 in 2017.

According to local flippers, that translates into some impressive profits. Calvin Beeke told WZZM, “You can make upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 on one flip.”

Of course, part of the challenge is getting all that work done quickly. According to Beeke, a flip should ideally take only a couple of weeks. It’s essential to jump on a property right away and make sure the renovations stay on schedule.

You also have to have the available capital to do it. Many flippers are take on several properties a year (or even at once), as the promise of making such a substantial payday can keep them coming back for more. But according to national reports, more than 35% of homes flipped in the second quarter of 2017 were purchased with financing. In the previous quarter, that number was only 33.2%, and just a year ago, 32.3% of flippers used financing. Currently, financing for flippers is at a nine-year high.

Still, Michigan flippers are showing that it can work — given the right market conditions. WalletHub analyzed 150 major U.S. cities and rated them for 22 different indicators. Not only was Grand Rapids ranked seventh on the list of best places to flip homes, but it was also rated 25th for market potential and 38th for quality of life. While that doesn’t mean you’ll get lucky every time, it does set up more experienced flippers for success.

As Beeke said in his interview, “When you do make [a good profit], it’s the reward for the risk you took and the surprises that you didn’t encounter.”

New Salad Bar Continues Commitment to Healthy Eating Habits At Greenway

New school lunch options are coming to Greenway public schools. A new salad and soup bar will offer children new, healthier options during the 2017-2018 school year.

As childhood obesity continues to be an epidemic across the U.S., there has been a sharp increase in the number of schools that provide healthy offerings for their students. The hope is that encouraging a healthy diet among young students will encourage better eating habits, an important goal, especially considering that the average American eats 4.3 hamburgers per month.

There is a fair amount of research that shows that exposure to fruits and vegetables in school helps to familiarize students with types of food that they might get in the home, which can lead to more healthy food choices outside the cafeteria.

The introduction of a salad bar comes just two years after another program was instituted to increase students’ exposure to healthier foods. That is when Vandyke Elementary School initiated their Greenway Grows program, an outdoor learning experience that offers students the opportunity to participate in a school-wide garden.

Similar gardening are sprouting up across the country. In Palm Beach County, Florida, 123 schools have developed school gardening programs over the past three years alone. So far, these programs have met with tremendous success.

“Kids that grow food will try new food and are more likely to change their eating habits,” said Jeannine Rizz, the school garden coordinator partially responsible for the growth of such programs in Florida, said to WPTV.

But it isn’t only students who love these programs. With 79% of Americans believing that there are a number of different ways for children to learn and that not all students learn best in the same way, opportunities such as the Greenway Grows program, which gives students a hands-on educational experience, are a favorite for many parents.

Now, waste from the salad bar will become an integral part of the school’s garden, as students learn about how to recycle waste as compost. Additionally, this offers the students a real life biology lesson, giving a clear example of decomposition and the life cycle.

Officials at the school are excited for the new ways students can learn and experience, and hopeful that the conjunction of these two programs will have a lasting impact.

“Overall, the salad bar and the garden are a great pairing, they are valuable tools in creating lifelong learners with healthy habits,” Sue Hoeft, the Vandyke Elementary School Principal, said to the Grand Rapids Herald Review.

For parents interested in trying the school’s new salad bar, Greenway will be providing samples as part of their fall open houses. Two open houses are scheduled at the Greenway High School. The first will take place on August 29, the second on Thursday, August 31st.

Empire Beauty School Expands Into Ex-Competitor’s Location

Empire Beauty school in Grand Rapids is changing up its look by moving to a new location. Michigan Live reports that the school recently moved to 3583 Alpine Ave. NW in Walker. This was previously the location of the school’s most direct competition, Regency Beauty School.

And this new location could be the makeover that Empire needs.

“With easy access to public transportation and a much more visible location, this is a great move for our school,” Laura Pierce, regional vice president for Empire Education Group, said in a statement to Michigan Live. “We are happy to be able to provide cosmetology education in this building.”

The new building is a sprawling 6,000 square feet accommodating the 65 cosmetology students enrolled at the Grand Rapids location, according to Michigan Live. They also have campuses in Standale and Portage in West Michigan. Empire was able to buy the former Regency space after the competitor suddenly closed all of its U.S. campuses despite having 2,800 students actively enrolled.

“From a community standpoint, it was a tough time for everyone in the industry when Regency shut its doors,” Frank Schoeneman, chief executive officer of Empire Education Group, said in a statement. “No one wants to see a school closure in a community. As cosmetology educators, we share one goal, and that is to improve the lives of the students we serve.”

The demand for cosmetologists will always be there. A recent study of 3,000 women found that 44% changed their hair style or color just because they were bored, and 61% admitted to simply wanting a change.

However, job prospects for stylists could be getting even better in the years ahead. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists are expected to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024. This is faster than the average overall growth of all occupations in the United States.

Part of the much-needed cosmetology education force, Empire Beauty Schools, operating under Empire Education Group, was founded in 1946 in Pennsylvania, according to Michigan Live. They operate their 109 schools in 21 states.