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COVID-19 changed travel and commutes dramatically, especially during the early stages of nationwide lockdowns. Busy roads in mid- to large-size cities were virtually empty as most drivers stayed home. You might assume this means fewer accidents due to the lack of drivers on the road, but the truth may not be what you'd expect. Read on to learn why.

How Many Car Crashes Happen Each Year?

The Associated Press reports that around 28,190 drivers were in a fatal car accident in 2019. Car wrecks usually happen for several reasons, from inclement weather and road conditions to distracted driving.

Below is a list of common causes of motor vehicle accidents:

  • Speeding
  • Running red lights
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Tailgating
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Drowsy driving

Distracted driving alone accounted for 3,142 deaths in 2019. So, with fewer cars on the road, how did these numbers change during COVID-19?

Crashes During COVID-19

Shockingly, the number of highway fatalities increased by nearly 5% from January to September of 2020. Why did this happen? According to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while fewer cars were on the road, those who were driving took more risks and had more serious accidents.

Speeding usually contributes to around 26% of all traffic fatalities, and it seems to be the main culprit in COVID-19 car crashes as well. Executive Director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, says that speeding appears to be the most common factor in these crashes and expresses concern for how this behavior could contribute to future traffic accidents.

"A big factor here is lack of enforcement. We are hearing from many states that traffic stops have declined during COVID-19. Drivers feel like they can speed and get away with it," said Executive Director Adkins.

In addition to speeding, reports also show that 65% of drivers treated at a trauma center or emergency department had drugs or alcohol in their system, a 14.4% increase over pre-pandemic numbers.

President and CEO of the National Safety Council, Lorraine Martin, said in a statement, "It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn't reap any safety benefits."

In fact, not only did risky behavior increase in the United States, but in Europe as well. In France, excessive speeding increased by 12%, contributing to a sharp increase in fatalities. The impact of COVID-19 on drivers is up for debate, and many speculate that stress and increased consumption of drugs and alcohol may be the motivation behind this alarming increase in traffic fatalities.

Other data sources report that speeding is still prevalent on the roads despite the slow shift back to pre-pandemic traffic. Additionally, drivers are not going 10 or 15 miles per hour over the speed limit – they're hitting speeds of over 80 miles per hour. Speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence have all played a significant role in the increase in car crash fatalities, and it appears that these driving behaviors may continue post-pandemic.

What Do I Do If I've Been in a Car Crash?

Traffic accidents can be traumatizing, and they often leave emotional and physical scars, especially for crashes that result in a fatality. If you are injured in an accident, you should always contact a legal representative as soon as possible.

Attorneys can inform you of your rights and help you pursue compensation for your injuries and any resulting damages. The roads are more dangerous than ever and, unfortunately, the likelihood of being injured in a car wreck is high.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to reckless driving or negligence, contact Zambrano Law Firm today.

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