With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, America has seen an overall decrease in cars taking to the roads due to stay-at-home orders and nationwide state shutdowns. With this decrease in cars on the road, the United States is seeing a surprising trend, more car crash-related deaths.
Statistics from 22 states and the District of Columbia showed a 17 percent drop in vehicle miles traveled in the first six months of 2020. Because this data indicated lower vehicle miles traveled, transportation specialists expected a dramatic decrease in traffic deaths, unfortunately, this was not the case. In the first six months of 2020 car crash-related deaths only dropped to an alarming six percent. Additionally, states with available data regarding traffic deaths reported a total of 6,357 traffic deaths in the first half of 2020, 791 more deaths than that same time in 2019, and only 401 less car-related deaths than 2019’s total.
States are shocked by these trends and are searching for answers as to why roads are emptier, but more deadly to drivers in the United States. A major correlation states are seeing connected to traffic deaths is irresponsible driving practices. Although many drivers found themselves on the road less during the pandemic, those who did hit the roads found clear open lanes that seemed to promote reckless driving behavior.
Officials speculate that drivers are using empty roads to drive at extremely dangerous speeds. Car accidents happening at high speeds are far more severe and tend to result in more fatalities in comparison to car accidents adhering to local speed limit guidelines that are put in place to protect drivers. With this in mind, many state officials and responsible drivers are fearful for what is to come as traffic begins to pick up and reach pre-covid levels as bars, restaurants, and movie theaters reopen their doors to the public.
The pandemic seems to be blinding some drivers to the dangers that come with reckless driving. New York City automated speed cameras are citing more speed limit violations than they were months leading up to the pandemic according to the New York Post.
Though speeding seems to be the main source of the issue plaguing highways and streets in the United States, other behaviors are playing into this influx in car crash-related deaths. Substance abuse, driving while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and/or opioids are playing an influential role in these increasing trends as people become agitated, uneasy and bored from extended time spent at home with limited social interaction.
Lin McCraw from the McCraw Law Group says that “As personal injury lawyers we see victims of car crashes often, and their accident happens in moments. A speeding driver slams into your passenger-side door, leaving a loved one paralyzed from spinal cord injury. A drunk driver veers into your lane hitting you head-on, causing traumatic brain injury and permanent disfigurement. A texting driver rear-ends you, causing severely broken bones and permanent nerve damage. A car accident can change your life in a flash, so it’s important to always follow the speed limit and always drive defensively to keep yourself and others around you safe.”
While the increase in car crashes may not seem pressing to some, it has the potential to affect many as we create a new sense of normalcy and develop routines that may involve commuting, driving to the store, or even dropping your kids off at daycare. If these speeding trends continue on a national level, we may see this alarming rise in car crash-related fatalities continue through the end of the pandemic.
To combat this problem many states and cities are increasing police patrols on clear highways and roads that have reckless drivers who are a danger to the public, and they are also implementing automated speed cameras. For your safety and others on the road, drive with caution, slow down, and buckle up. It has the potential to save thousands of lives this year alone.
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