Pandemic Travel – Traffic Deaths Increased Despite Fewer Drivers on the Road
During the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, many states across the U.S. issued stay-at-home orders while others immediately went into lockdown, which kept many drivers off the U.S. roads and highways. Drivers who did venture out found the open lanes as an invitation to speed and drive recklessly, which led to a noticeable increase in traffic-related deaths.
Early this month, the National Safety Council reported a significant increase in traffic-related deaths despite a decline in nationwide road travel. While the nonprofit did not offer a specific explanation why deaths increased despite fewer miles traveled, the local authorities blamed the pandemic for an upward trend in speeding infractions beginning in the second quarter of 2020.
The report further estimates that 42,060 people died in traffic crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years. The fatality rate per 100 million miles driven had risen by 24%. The most significant growth since the council began collecting data in 1923. “The bad behavior continues as traffic is now getting close to pre-pandemic levels,” authorities said.
The NSC estimates more than 4.8 million were injured last year and the death rate exceeded that of 2007 when 43,945 individuals were killed in traffic crashes. “Federal reports indicate that Americans drove 13% fewer miles last year, yet the number of deaths rose at an alarming rate,” said Ken Kolosh, NSC’s Manager of Statistics.
In a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the test results of trauma center patients involved in traffic crashes show increased use of alcohol, marijuana, and opioids.
“Drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said James Owens, Deputy NHTSA Administrator.
The National Safety Council counts both traffic and non-traffic deaths that occur within a year of an accident. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only counts traffic deaths that occur within 30-days.
In addition, local law enforcement agencies throughout the State of Florida reported an increase in traffic citations issued for reckless driving, aggressive driving, racing on the highway, and texting and driving.
What Happens Next?
The National Safety Council is calling equitable enforcement of traffic laws including:
- Mandatory ignition switch locks for drivers convicted for driving under the influence or impaired driving
- Banning cellphone use while driving
- Reduced speed limits to match roadway designs
- Improvements to Infrastructure
Have You Lost a Loved One in a Crash?
If you have lost a loved one in a traffic crash, we encourage you to contact our team of legal experts. At Clark Fountain, our firm has successfully litigated complex injury and death cases as a result of head-on collisions, side-impact collisions, rear-end collisions, vehicle rollovers, and vehicle pileups. Call for a free consultation with our experienced injury lawyers.