For the last two years, much of the world has struggled to overcome a powerful, evolving virus. From work stoppages, shelter in place orders and shifting priorities to account for new data, one thing became clear – even consistently busy roads were eerily empty for long stretches. Unfortunately, as traffic departments tabulated crash data in 2020, the correlation was astonishing. Less drivers somehow equated to more fatalities.
Worse, the trend continued through 2021 and shows no signs of stopping in early 2022 as most roads return to a pre-lockdown level of traffic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published data that thoroughly examined traffic fatalities during the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. They estimated that 31,720 individuals died because of motor vehicle crashes in 2021. This was an increase of 12% from the same period in 2020 when the NHTSA projected 28,325 traffic fatalities. Additionally, the 2020 traffic data showed a jump of more than 7% from the 2019 fatality totals. The reasons for this are myriad, including:
- Reckless driving: With a wide-open road in front of them, many motorists simply decided they could take more chances while behind the wheel. Whether this centered-on speeding, unsafe lane changes or other dangerous behaviors, drivers felt the compulsion to take advantage of empty roads. Unfortunately, this often led to a loss of control.
- Distracted driving: Similarly, with light traffic, various activities tempt drivers to multitask while behind the wheel. From personal grooming and making phone calls to eating lunch and checking email, distracted drivers pull their attention from the road and hands from the wheel.
- Impaired driving: From dangerous activities such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to seemingly innocuous habits of taking cold or allergy medicine, drivers often get behind the wheel unable to make clear, quick decisions on the road.
While every motor vehicle collision is unique, certain common factors often influence the catastrophic injuries or death that follows. From distracted drivers to those struggling with impaired cognition, crowded city streets and fast-moving highways can quickly become a deadly environment.