A Shocking Amount of People Died in Traffic During COVID-19 Lockdowns

One of the many effects of COVID-19 lockdowns is the drastic decrease in overall traffic across the U.S. While this may be a welcomed effect for daily commuters, it has created a very serious problem. Despite the COVID-19 lockdowns and fewer cars on the road, fatalities have increased significantly through 2020. According to Autoblog, risky drivers are driving faster than ever, leading to more chances for catastrophic collisions.

How many people died in traffic due to COVID-19 Lockdowns?

An image of several cars in traffic on a highway with a COVID-19 message on a large sign.
Cars In Traffic Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As COVID-19 lockdowns began in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2020, on-road deaths increased slightly by 0.6 percent, says Autoblog. Thankfully, this rate managed to dip by 1.1 percent in the second quarter as most people worked from home and did not need to commute anymore. At this point, having fewer drivers on the road proved to be a bit of a benefit, causing fatalities to decrease.

However, Autoblog reports that these figures spiked through the third quarter of 2020. This correlates with the lessening of COVID-19 lockdowns across the country. The result was a reported 13.1 percent increase in fatalities. During the first three quarters of 2019, 26,941 people died on the roads, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In contrast, that number increased significantly to 28,190 during the same time in 2020.

It is worth noting that full stats for 2020 are not yet available, given that the year just ended. However, if we had to guess, more drivers on the roads for holiday travel most likely won’t help this situation.

Why are there so many crashes across the U.S.?

Radar gun used to give speeding tickets
Police using Radar gun | Artur Widak/NurPhoto)

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Unfortunately, there is no one single cause to this COVID-19 lockdown crashes phenomena. In fact, Autoblog reports that a few factors are causing all of these fatalities. The first, unsurprisingly, is speeding drivers. With fewer cars on the road, risky drivers are driving faster than ever. According to the NHTSA via Autoblog, vehicle speeds increased by 22 percent in several metropolitan areas.

One reason why people felt so comfortable speeding after COVID-19 lockdowns has to do with law enforcement. According to Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, “A big factor here is the 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,”

On top of just plain speed, drivers are taking more risks than before the COVID-19 lockdowns. According to Autoblog, citing the NHTSA, 65 percent of drivers treated in trauma centers during this time had drugs or alcohol in their systems. In contrast, that number was 50.6 percent before the arrival of the pandemic.

What can we do to help?

An image of several cars in traffic on a highway.
Cars In Traffic | Gary Hershorn via Getty Images

Unfortunately, there aren’t many steps non-offending individuals can take to help this situation. As COVID-19 lockdowns continue to ease up, more drivers will flood the roads across the U.S. The NHTSA recommends avoiding drugs and alcohol while behind the wheel. Additionally, wearing a seatbelt and reducing speeds will have a significant positive impact. However, since these responsibilities fall on the reckless drivers to correct, safe drivers have to be more aware than ever and drive defensively as they return to work.