Vehicle Fatalities Continue to Increase in 2020

By  //  August 6, 2020

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Despite drastic changes in traffic trends due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it appears that the fatality rate from traffic crashes on roads across America is increasing.

Despite drastic changes in traffic trends due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it appears that the fatality rate from traffic crashes on roads across America is increasing.

Even though millions of Americans are staying off the road due to stay-at-home orders that impact employment or leisure activities, the nationwide data saw the fatality rate from traffic accidents jump 14% in March compared to previous years.

While a number of people expected to see some safety benefits from the decrease in roadway traffic, it was a surprise to many that the roads became more dangerous within the first quarter of the year.

A combination of decreased miles driven and a steady rate of fatalities across the country resulted in the first quarter of 2020 having a higher rate of roadway fatalities than at any other point in 2018 and 2019.

Within the first four months of 2020, there were a handful of states that saw a notable increase in the number of roadway deaths.

These states include Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, and Louisiana. As states start to reopen and lift stay-at-home orders, those with particularly high roadway fatalities are turning to organizations like the National Safety Council (NSC) to try and understand vehicle fatalities in order to decrease them before the bulk of the traffic returns.

Why is this Happening?

While there can be many factors that contribute to the increase in vehicle fatalities within the first quarter of 2020, some experts point to reckless driving across the country as roads are suddenly clear of congestion. Where some states may have frequent traffic jams as individuals travel between home and work, the pandemic has changed this.

“With stay-at-home orders and some people switching to working from home, traffic is suddenly much less than in months prior,” explained Attorney Michael McCready of McCready Law. “With clear roadways and limited traffic, those who do go on the road are inclined to drive faster, and sometimes less safely, than they would in normal conditions.”

Experts say that speed is usually one of the major factors in fatal crashes. With the worrying trend of dangerous driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, many believe that speed, coupled with drivers who may not have driven consistently throughout the months of stay-at-home orders, are creating a dangerous scenario on roadways.

With data from the NSC that goes back almost 100 years, experts are worried about the repercussions of this dangerous trend in traffic patterns once more states lift their coronavirus regulations.

If the roads are growing more and more unsafe with limited traffic, some worry about what could occur when more vehicles enter the roadways as in-person employment returns. 

Tips for Safety on The Road

With the lack of traffic, whether due to changing work requirements, stay-at-home-orders, or decreased travel needs, many people are taking to the road on bikes, scooters, and other transportation styles. As businesses begin to reopen and states start to return to a normal way of life, there may be many changes that affect how people use the roads.

If you are driving after months away from the wheel, it’s important to refresh your understanding of driving basics. It is always beneficial to be fully aware of your surroundings by mitigating any distractions like loud music, talkative passengers, and using phones or radios while driving.

You may have to be more cautious to account for pedestrians and bikers who may also be utilizing the road with you, where in months prior it was just cars and trucks.

There is also a trend popping up with the coronavirus pandemic where people take to the roads as a form of entertainment.

With limited traffic and an abundance of free time, driving around can be a pleasant change of scenery from a person’s home. However, many are taking advantage of the uncongested roads by speeding and taking few precautions. 

One very important element to driving is not only obeying the speed limits but driving with respect for the road and others who may share it with you.

You should also refrain from substances that could impair your ability to drive, such as alcohol, marijuana, and medications that could induce drowsiness or lack of focus.

As many experts will testify, it’s up to each of us to keep the roads safe. Many traffic deaths are preventable by using caution and staying aware of your surroundings whenever you are in operation of a vehicle. Staying aware, removing distractions, and wearing a seatbelt can be the difference between life and death.

While it may take some time for traffic to return to its normal patterns from before the coronavirus pandemic, practicing proper caution can keep you safe while you get back onto the road.