Car Accidents More Deadly in 2020

Since the COVID19 pandemic hit in early 2020, more employees have been working from home, fewer people have been traveling, and everyone has been living a more sedentary lifestyle in general.  It’s only logical that this would result in a lower number fatal car crashes per million vehicle miles driven—less activity should lead to fewer accidents.  As it has turned out, though, emptier streets have meant an especially deadly year for traffic accidents across the United States. 

According to a report released by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS), U.S. roads were more dangerous in the second quarter of 2020 than they have been in years.  Speaking strictly in terms of raw numbers, traffic fatalities decreased from 16,988 in 2019 to 16,650 for the same period in 2020.  But as the NHTS report highlights, vehicle miles driven were down a whopping 16.6 percent.  Using the metric of deaths per million vehicle miles traveled, the NHTSA discovered that fatalities per 100 million VMT climbed to 1.25 in 2020, up from the 1.06 in 2019.  This contrasts sharply to the three successful years of decreased deaths per 100 million VMT seen between 2016-2019.

NHTSA has cited a number of reasons for why this is happening, and they all hinge on people making bad decisions behind the wheel.  More driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, more speeding due to emptier roads, and – perplexingly – fewer people wearing seat belts.  It’s easy to imagine some of the explanations for this behavior from a psychological standpoint.  Stress, anxiety and isolation have plagued Americans over the last year.  But we urge all of our friends, family and clients to take note of this disturbing trend in fatal accidents and to exercise the utmost caution on the roads in 2021.  Be conscious of people speeding around you, remember that buzzed driving is drunk driving, and of course always wear your seat belt.