COVID-19 focused on personal health and safety that perhaps only a pandemic can, but there was at least one place where people did not get the note: American roads.
Despite Americans driving hundreds of billions of miles less in 2020 than they did in 2019, fatal traffic accidents actually increased in the lockout year with fatal crashes during the pandemic hitting levels not seen for over a decade.
According to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic fatalities forecasts for 2020 suggest that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year, corresponding to an increase of approx. 7.2 percent compared to 201
The staggering increase – which took traffic fatalities to levels not seen since 2007 – came in the course of a year in which Americans actually drove their cars much less than normal: an estimated 430.2 billion miles fewer overall, representing a drop of 13 , 2 percent from the previous year.
The new figures show that travel on the country’s roads last year was generally a significantly more risky proposal compared to recent years, where mortality per capita. 100 million completed vehicle environments (VMT) increased to 1.37 in 2020, up from 1.11 in 2019, ending a series of annual reductions in deaths that began in 2016, suggesting safer driving conditions.
The good race now seems to be interrupted. Although an in-depth psychological explanation for what is happening lies outside the scope of NHTSA’s statistics, the body became aware of a dangerous shift in driver behavior several months ago.
“In the early months of the national public health crisis, driving patterns and behavior changed markedly,” the NHTSA explained in an update on COVID-19 road safety conditions in January.
“Of the drivers who remained on the roads, some were involved in more risky behaviors, including speeding, missing seat belts and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.”
The latest figures released last week provide the most comprehensive look yet at U.S. traffic fatalities in 2020, showing the deadliest months came in the second half of the year after states began reopening after previous shutdowns and remaining home orders in the first half of 2020 (which coincided with fewer traffic fatalities in the months of March, April and May compared to 2019).
While it is difficult authoritatively to determine what caused people to drive in more dangerous ways, the NHTSA recognizes a “remarkable trend” of several aggravating factors that contributed to the increase in lethal crashes last year.
These included significant increases in deaths on rural, urban and interstate roads, deaths at night and on weekends, crashes with older vehicles, crashes, speed-related crashes and many more.
The biggest increases over 2019 figures were deaths involving non-Hispanic black people (up 23 percent), passenger exhaust (up 20 percent) and unlimited passenger vehicles (up 15 percent, and tied to deaths on urban intergovernmental roads). ).
Not all aspects of American driving in 2020 were more deadly. Deaths with the elderly (65 years and older) decreased by 9 percent, and deaths with large trucks decreased marginally (by about 2 percent).
According to NHTSA, traffic data suggest that average driver speeds increased in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year, and extreme speeds became more common, even while people in collisions seemed to use their seat belts less. Drug use was also a significant factor.
“NHTSA’s study of seriously or fatally injured road users at five participating trauma centers showed that almost two thirds of motorists tested positive for at least one active substance, including alcohol, marijuana or opioids, between mid-March and mid-July,” new report explains.
“The proportion of drivers who tested positive for opioids nearly doubled after mid-March compared to the previous six months, while marijuana prevalence increased by about 50 percent.”
Ultimately, NHTSA says that the increase in risky road safety behaviors first seen in the 2nd and 3rd quarters continued into the last quarter of the year, meaning that although the frequency of triptaking generally declined, there is a “disturbing trend” of increases in severe injury rates in the latter part of 2020 resulted.
“Meeting the needs of vulnerable road users requires that we understand how their risks may have changed over the course of 2020,” says NHTSA, noting that much more research is needed to explain shifts in driver behavior and resulting crash results.
Drive safely, everyone. People’s lives really depend on it.
The results are available on the NHTSA website.