Why Did Car Accident Fatalities Rise During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Why Did Car Accident Fatalities Rise During the COVID-19 Pandemic?It would be logical to think that people staying at home or close to home during the pandemic would lead to fewer traffic deaths. Sadly, the reverse has proven to be true. A recent Los Angeles Times article reported a frightening statistic. There were more than 38,600 deaths on US roads in the last year, even though there were far fewer drivers on the road.

The LA Times report said that nonprofits like the National Safety Council (NSC) are trying to understand the causes. A researcher at the NSC said that many drivers during the pandemic took chances that they weren’t taking prior. Drivers during the 2020 pandemic were more likely to speed, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and not use their seatbelts.

Sadly, those trends continued in 2021 even as the country began to return to work and leave their homes. Some experts attributed the rise in negligent driving to feelings of “isolation, loneliness, and depression.” For example, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researcher said drivers tend to think, “What does a seat belt or another beer matter, anyway, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic?”

The increase in traffic fatalities seems to be in line with other pandemic-era concerns. Alcohol use is increasing. Drug overdoses are on the rise. Homicides have risen dramatically.

Frank Farley, a Temple University professor, said that driving during the COVID-19 pandemic is a form of rebellion for some people. “You’ve been cooped up, locked down, and have restrictions you chafe at,” he said. “So if you can have an arousal breakout, you want to take it.”

Before the pandemic started, the number of traffic fatalities had declined from 55,000 in 1970 to just over 36,000 in 2019. These decreases occurred even though there were more drivers and many states had higher speed limits. Some of the decreases were due to technology – the use of airbags, better braking systems, and better warning systems. Laws that required drivers to use seatbelts also helped reduce fatality levels.

In 2021, traffic deaths rose by 7.2%. In the first half of 2021, traffic fatalities (according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) rose by 18%. These rises in fatality levels are especially troubling, since the percent of drivers on the roadways in 2020 dropped by more than 13%.

In California, law enforcement issued more than 28,000 tickets to drivers traveling 100 mph – nearly twice the total for 2019. Tickets for reckless driving rose 150% in 2020 and are expected to rise even higher in 2021. Even a small increase in speed increases the risk of a traffic fatality, and going 30 mph or more over the speed limit is completely irresponsible.

Since the pandemic, according to the NHTSA, ejections from cars have increased because the drivers and passengers were not wearing seatbelts. Most of the people ejected from these vehicles are male.

The LA Times noted one survey that showed that seven percent of adults admitted they were more likely to drive during the pandemic while they were impaired than before the pandemic. The percentage of people who have tested positive for opioids in accidents where someone died or was seriously hurt has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. The use of marijuana has also increased dramatically.

Many individuals are also driving while distracted, with the main cause of driver distraction causing accidents is cellphone use.

States are considering various remedies, including laws against street racing and longer driver’s license suspension periods for criminal negligence.

Additional factors in rising traffic death rates

The LA Times report states that the death rate for Black people has risen “more than three times faster than the death rate overall, a disparity that could reflect a deeper sense of despair in the poorer communities hit hardest by the pandemic.” Another possible reason for the higher rate of traffic deaths among these communities could be that there is a higher percentage of Black people in the essential workforce, like delivery drivers. Delivery work pays based on how many deliveries the driver can make – which depends on how fast the driver travels.

The number of traffic deaths involving just one vehicle has also risen much faster as opposed to collisions involving two or more vehicles. As mentioned above, other causes for the increase in traffic deaths include speeding, not using a seat belt, and driving under the influence.

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit based in Washington, thinks that the reckless driving behavior is part of a “national decline in civility that accelerated during the pandemic.” He stated further, “Anecdotally, we hear from governors’ offices around the country that it’s a symptom and a sign of the overall lack of consideration we’re showing for other citizens, whether it be wearing masks, or not getting vaccinated, or how we drive. It’s very aggressive. It’s very selfish.”

With all the other difficulties people are enduring during the pandemic, the rise is traffic deaths has not received the attention it deserves. Death rates have risen across the board. They’ve risen in cities and rural areas. They’re higher on both highways and on back roads. Death totals are higher during the day and during the night; on weekends and weekdays; and for every age group between 16 and 65. Death totals have increased from 2019 to 2021 in 41 states. There were 607 deaths in Oklahoma in 2019 and 637 deaths in 2020.

Families who tragically lose a loved one due to driver negligence deserve justice. At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers hold careless drivers responsible for the deaths and injuries they cause. We understand that the challenges of the pandemic does not justify negligent or reckless driving. To discuss your right to compensation for your injuries and losses, fill out our contact form or call 405-232-1212 to schedule an appointment. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis.

Meta description. Deaths during the pandemic are on the rise even though driver mileage is declining. Call the Oklahoma City car accident attorneys at Cunningham & Mears today if you were injured in a car wreck.