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Retrospective: Did traffic deaths increase with fewer cars on the road in 2020?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2021 | Car Accidents

While millions have been fully vaccinated in Pennsylvania, the COVID-19 pandemic still seems to be far from over. Even as workers have spent more than a year adjusting to telecommuting, traffic patterns are starting to show signs of increasing. Unfortunately, what should have been a quiet year for deadly vehicle collisions, ended up seeing a troubling spike in traffic fatalities.

Throughout much of 2020, the empty roads were hard to miss. Millions upon millions of employees were now working from home and, sadly, a significant amount of people lost their jobs due to a loss of profitability or work simply closing down. Those who were still driving were met with wide open lanes and a faster commute than they had ever experienced. Unfortunately, this ultimately led to trouble.

  • Excessive speeds: Not only did law enforcement across the nation report handing out significantly more tickets where drivers were exceeding 100 mph, GPS data collected from cellphones also showed that drivers were travelling far faster than they had historically. While the overall number of crashes dropped, the crashes that occurred were deadlier due to excessive speeds.
  • Ignoring safety features: As the NHTSA continued to examine crash data, they found that vehicle ejections had significantly increased. In fact, the number of people ejected from the car doubled in April 2020 compared to April 2019. This suggests that significantly fewer drivers on the road were bothering to wear their seatbelts.
  • Impaired driving: The NHTSA reviewed data from patients in trauma centers being treated after a vehicle collision. They found the number of people driving impaired by drugs, alcohol or powerful prescription medication to be significantly higher than the months prior to the pandemic lock-down.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reported data at one point that showed overall traffic was down 15.5% against the same period the previous year while fatalities had increased by 14.6%. Pennsylvania is not an outlier, however, as these numbers are reflected in national crash data.

Even with less-crowded roads, drivers must remain safe. They must avoid distractions, avoid drowsy driving, avoid chemical impairment, and follow all speed limits and safety signals. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle collision, it is wise to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.


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