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COVID-19 – Its Relationship to Increased Fatal Car Crashes

By January 25, 2021February 8th, 2021Blog, Car & Truck Accidents
COVID-19 increased car fatalities

According to the latest federal data, the number of fatal car crashes decreased in 2019 over 2018, yet it appears they significantly increased in 2020, a year in which fewer drivers were on the road because of COVID-19. Why?

In December 2020 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a review of car and commercial truck accidents for 2019 (“Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019”). It provided some good news.

There were fewer motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019 compared to 2018.  Nearly 37,000 people died in car and truck accidents, which represented a 2% decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities from the previous year.

The deaths decreased in practically every category, including:

·         Passenger car occupants

·         Motorcyclists

·         Pedestrians

·         Bicyclists

Even the number of drunk-driving deaths fell in 2019, by 5%.

Fatal Truck Crash Numbers Increase

Fatal commercial truck crashes did not fall in 2019, nor have they fallen during the pandemic.  The number of people who died in catastrophic 18-wheeler accidents increased in 2019 over 2018.  A small increase, yet counter to safety trends covering the other types of vehicles on the road.  And it’s an alarming upward trend that is unabated going back several years.

Another disastrous trend is that, again in 2019, the great majority of people who died in a crash with a tractor-trailer were occupants in other vehicles.  Over 80% of those killed in commercial truck accidents were in cars or on motorcycles.

Not surprising, considering a fully loaded commercial semi can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.

Also in December of 2020 NHTSA released a report estimating fatal traffic accidents for the first half of 2020 (“Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories Through June 2020”).  The picture it paints is not as favorable as the 2019 report.

The trucking crash deaths compare differently month-to-month. Nationwide fatalities in January 2019 and 2020 were about the same.  February 2020 motor vehicle accident deaths were significantly higher than February 2019.

In March that number dropped sharply from February 2020 and also when compared to March 2019. The same for April 2020.

In June, however, deaths from car and truck crashes spiked, jumping 15% compared to June 2019.

NHTSA cites COVID-19 as a main cause.  The pandemic lockdown began in March, which resulted in markedly fewer drivers on the road. Most states began to reopen in June, and a corresponding rise in traffic deaths occurred.

Speeding Drivers in Missouri

But while we were in the first COVID-19 lockdown, media reports in St. Louis and elsewhere noted a disturbing development. Law enforcement officials cited a wave of speeding drivers during the initial pandemic stay-at-home orders.  Many were recklessly taking advantage of the less congested roads.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports 101 more people died on Missouri roads in 2020, compared to pandemic-free 2019.  Speeding is a major cause of fatal car crashes, so its credible conjecture that more Missouri speeding drivers may have led to more deadly traffic accidents.

Whether you’re driving a 40-ton commercial rig or a passenger vehicle that weighs considerably less, the responsibility to behave safely behind the wheel is the same.  Speeding, distracted driving or driving under the influence of alcohol, for example, are negligent actions that often take the lives of others.

If you suffered serious injuries or you had a family member die in a traffic crash caused by another driver, you may wish to speak with a car accident lawyer about holding all responsible parties accountable for their careless behavior.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog January 25, 2021