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Traffic Accidents Rise in 2020, Despite Covid-19

May 26th, 2021

Despite an overall decline in the number of miles Americans drove last year, the number of traffic accidents and fatalities rose at an alarming rate. Data suggests that this unexpected rise may be the result of an increase in reckless driving, with motorists on emptier roadways taking more risks.

Less Driving but More Accidents

Given the many restrictions we faced during the Covid-19 pandemic last year, it should come as no surprise that Americans logged less time in their cars. In fact, Americans drove 13% fewer miles in 2020 than in the previous year. The numbers were even higher in some locations, especially at the height of the crisis. Under lockdown, traffic volumes in Minnesota, for instance, fell by over 60%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expected those lower numbers to mean fewer accidents in 2020 as well. And in fact, the number of fatalities fell 1.1% in the second quarter of the year. However, they rose by over 13% between July and September and for the year were well up over 2019 numbers.

Empty Roadways Lead to Recklessness

Experts were initially puzzled by this data until anecdotal evidence from around the country began to suggest an answer. Police from New York to Colorado began reporting more drivers going 100 mph or more. They speculated these speeds might be in response to relatively empty streets and highways. In addition, drivers may have assumed traffic enforcement would be lighter during the pandemic.

A study by Allstate offers more concrete numbers. According to their analysis of drivers’ app data, during Covid-19, people have been driving over 100 mph 20% more frequently, and accidents are happening at speeds over 50% higher than normal. That means more fatalities.

In Search of Answers

A number of municipalities have taken steps to address the increase in reckless driving over the last year. Some have raised speeding fines, while others have installed more traffic lights.

Unfortunately, as the country has begun to recover from Covid-19 and more drivers have returned to the roads, the reckless behavior has continued, and experts are worried that continued recklessness and more drivers may be an especially deadly combination.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a traffic accident, you have rights. For more information, call the law firm of Ogborn Mihm, LLP at 303-592-5900, or submit a contact form here.