There were fewer drivers on the road during the pandemic, so why did traffic deaths increase?

Despite fewer drivers on the road in 2020, the number of traffic deaths increased. AAA looked...
Despite fewer drivers on the road in 2020, the number of traffic deaths increased. AAA looked into those numbers to see what caused the surge.(Pixabay)
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 9:11 PM CST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Gray News) – While the COVID-19 pandemic has kept most people at home and off the roads, the number of traffic fatalities actually increased.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety looked into what caused those numbers to surge.

After examining data about the drivers who took to the roads during the pandemic, researchers discovered that, although most people decreased their time spent driving, a small group of people actually spent more time on the roads.

It was also found that the group of people who increased their driving were riskier than average, even accounting for their age, gender, and how much they drove.

While only a small percentage of drivers increased their driving due to the pandemic, they were younger and disproportionately male, which is a statistically riskier demographic behind the wheel than the average population.

Additionally, this group of drivers were more likely to report they had engaged in risky driving behaviors including:

  • going 10 or more miles over the speed limit
  • reading text messages
  • running a red light
  • changing lanes aggressively
  • not wearing a seatbelt
  • alcohol impaired driving
  • driving after using cannabis

Despite the average number of driving trips decreasing by 42% during 2020, The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that an estimated 38,680 people died in crashes. 2020 had the largest number of traffic fatalities since 2007 and an increase of about 7.2% compared to the 36,096 deaths in 2019.

This surge in traffic deaths is also unique to the U.S. According to AAA, the death rates have decreased in most other high-income countries since 2019.

For more information on traffic safety, you can visit the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety website.

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