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Traffic Deaths Increased During Pandemic

A government study shows that traffic deaths in the United States increased in 2020, even though Americans drove less because of the pandemic.

Over 38,000 Traffic Deaths

According to a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on June 3, 2021, there were an estimated 38,680 traffic deaths in the United States in 2020. This represents the largest projected number of American motor vehicle fatalities since 2007, and an increase of about 7.2 percent from 2019, when there were 36,096 fatalities reported.

This spike in traffic deaths is especially startling given the fact that Americans drove an estimated 430.2 billion fewer miles in 2020 – a decline of 13.2 percent– largely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The fatality rate in 2020 was 1.37 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled the previous year.

Fatalities Increased in Most Major Categories

The NHTSA found that car accident fatalities increased in most major categories in 2020. Specifically, traffic deaths rose for these parties:

  • Motorcyclists – 5,015 total deaths, up 9 percent
  • Passenger Vehicle Occupants – 23,395 fatalities, a 5-percent increase
  • Bicycle Riders – 846 deaths, an increase of 5 percent

When the NHTSA analyzed 2020 traffic deaths by factors and demographics, it found the largest increases in the following categories:

  • Non-Hispanic Black People – up by 23 percent
  • Vehicle Occupant Ejections – an increase of 20 percent
  • Unrestrained Passenger Vehicle Occupants – up 15 percent
  • Crashes on Urban Interstates – a 15-percent increase
  • Accidents on Urban Local/Collector Roads – up by 12 percent
  • Accidents on Rural Local/Collector Roads – up 11 percent
  • Speeding-Related Crashes – an increase of 11 percent
  • Accidents at Night – increased by 11 percent
  • Accidents During the Weekend – a 9-percent increase
  • Single-Vehicle Crashes – up by 9 percent
  • Rollover Accidents – an increase of 9 percent
  • Crashes Involving Alcohol – increased by 9 percent

Notably, some categories are likely to show decreases in traffic deaths during 2020. For example, fatal crashes involving large trucks are expected to decline by 2 percent, while traffic deaths for people 65 years of age or older should be down by approximately 9 percent.

What Drove the Rise in Traffic Deaths?

Though the number of traffic deaths has not been finalized yet, the NHTSA’s research indicates that driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns.

Drivers who remained on the roads during this period seem to have engaged in riskier behavior, including speeding, neglecting to wear seatbelts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This trend also likely increased over time. The preliminary data suggests that average speeds increased throughout the year, with extreme speeding becoming more common, while fewer people involved in accidents used their seatbelts.

Have You Lost a Loved One in an Auto Accident?

Though the data from the NHTSA is chilling enough, it is important to remember that traffic deaths are not merely statistics. Each one represents an incomparable loss to the surviving family and friends, an emptiness that can never be filled. This loss is especially upsetting when it is the result of somebody else’s negligent actions.

While nothing will bring that loved one back, the surviving family members and dependents of the victim may be eligible to receive financial compensation from the party or parties responsible for his or her wrongful death. To increase the chances of obtaining a successful outcome in a traffic death claim, reach out to the knowledgeable car accident attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.

GWC is one of the premier Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firms in Illinois, with more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients. Our Chicago car accident lawyers have the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success you need to help get you and your family the justice you deserve.

To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our dedicated wrongful death attorneys, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.