People have been driving less during the lockdown period. How much less? About 26% less, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Because of that, the number of overall traffic fatalities is down by 3.3%, compared to last year.
That does not mean our roads are safer. Unfortunately, a recent NHTSA study found that people who are still driving are doing so more recklessly. When measured by total miles driven, the nationwide fatality rate spiked during April, May and June.
At 1.42 deaths per 100 million miles driven, the traffic fatality rate for the first three months of lockdown is 30% higher than it was over the same period last year. That is the highest death rate since 2005.
By contrast, last year’s traffic fatality rate was just 1.10 deaths per 100 million miles driven. That was the lowest death rate since 2014.
“Drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” concluded NHTSA.
Indeed, the study found that the average speed people are driving has increased dramatically. Moreover, extreme speeding has become more common and fewer people are wearing their seat belts.
“In short, the stay-at-home orders may have led the population of drivers during the height of the health crisis to have been smaller but more willing to take risks,” NHTSA said.
Several trends could explain the increase in traffic fatalities
It’s hard to say exactly why the traffic fatality rate has spiked. However, one safety group told Reuters that many drivers seemed to see the open roads as an invitation to speed, drive intoxicated and snub their seat belts.
There is also some evidence that there has been less traffic enforcement during the lockdown. This may have led some drivers to take greater risks.
Finally, those drivers who are still on the road may be more likely to take risks. For example, older drivers, who tend to be more risk-averse, may have stayed home at greater rates than average.
Have you been in a traffic accident during lockdown? If you have, or if you have lost a loved one, discuss your situation with a personal injury attorney who will fight for meaningful results.