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Traffic deaths surged despite fewer cars on the road in 2020

Apr 22, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Crashes

The previous year will be etched in our memories due to the distress and financial struggles faced by Texans and countless other Americans impacted by the pandemic.

However, one unanticipated consequence was a significant increase in U.S. traffic fatalities. This came as a surprise to experts who had forecasted a decline in highway deaths, given the reduced number of vehicles on the roads due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

The U.S. death rate saw the largest jump in recorded history

Instead of a slight silver lining expected during the pandemic, the National Safety Council (NSC) said the opposite happened. The advocacy group offered these 2020 statistics:

  • 42,060 people died in highway crashes
  • Deaths increased by 8% compared to 2019
  • Total vehicle miles traveled decreased by 13% from 2019
  • The resulting death rate spiked by 24% when considering those factors

That 24% increase represented the largest single-year jump since the NSC started measuring traffic fatalities in 1924, or roughly a decade after the horse and buggy era ended.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that the nation’s empty roads during the pandemic seemed to have tempted drivers to speed. Data indicates that average speeds in urban areas rose by 35% to 40% last year.

The NHTSA reports that police records show a significant increase in speeding and reckless driving violations across the country. Concurrently, test results of crash victims reveal a higher prevalence of drug and alcohol impairment. Additionally, fewer drivers and passengers wore seat belts.

Holding negligent drivers responsible

A study in California indicates that while the total number of accidents during a seven-week period in the early phase of last year’s stay-at-home order dropped by 29%, severe and fatal accidents rose by almost 15%, likely due to increased speeding and the use of larger, heavier vehicles.

More recent research suggests that many motorists’ recklessness persists in 2021. In cases where someone suffers injuries due to another’s negligence, it is recommended to consult an experienced personal injury attorney to secure maximum compensation for injuries and any damage to their vehicle or other property.