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A pandemic-driven increase in traffic deaths

Over the past year-and-a-half, the focus of practically everyone in the United States was to “stay safe.” The phrase served as a clarion call for those looking to protect themselves from contracting a deadly virus that resulted in a worldwide pandemic.

Masking up, social distancing, and other protocols of safety became the norm. Many followed mandates to shelter-in-place while others volunteer to remain within the confines of their dwellings. However, for those who traveled via motor vehicle to various destinations, safety was not the priority for many drivers.

Breaking a decade-plus record

Nationwide traffic deaths saw the largest increase in 13 years during a time when fewer vehicles were on the road and miles traveled dropping 430.2 billion. Overall, fatalities rose by seven percent in 2020, caused mainly by the wide-open roads. Overall, there were 1.37 deaths per 100 million, an increase from 2019’s 1.11. A lack of congestion resulted in reckless behavior, driving at high speeds, leaving seatbelts unbuckled, or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Preliminary numbers reveal that nearly 40,000 people lost their lives, including almost 24,000 involved in passenger vehicle accidents. The statistic represents another record-breaking number that exceeded the number of deadly accidents in 2007.

Two-wheeled transports powered by engines and “pedal power” also added to the deadly tally. Motorcycle deaths numbered slightly over 5,000, a nine percent increase. A total of 846 bicyclists lost their lives, up five percent from the previous year.

The one sliver of positive news involved large truck deaths decreasing by two percent, and road-related fatalities for those 65 and older dropped nine percent.

The relaxing of restrictions could bring down deaths next year unless motor vehicle operators find their newfound driving “techniques” to be a hard habit to break.