Driving a two-ton motor vehicle carries inherent risks of serious injuries or fatalities. But with every generation, automakers strive to improve car safety by providing more innovative features and technology in their vehicles.
Simple distractions, like listening to loud music or driving aggressively, increase the odds of deadly car crashes. Despite fewer vehicles on the road throughout the pandemic, the number of traffic fatalities rose in 2020. The stunning increase has prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implore drivers to stop taking unnecessary risks on the road.
A higher number of fatal crashes occurred during the pandemic
You’d expect car accidents and fatal crashes to decline with fewer vehicles on the road. But “less traffic on the road and less police enforcement” might contribute to a disturbing trend in reckless driving, Road and Track noted in its analysis of a recent letter from the NHTSA. Pandemic lockdowns altered commuting patterns, and fewer drivers on the road prompted many motorists to drive faster and take unnecessary risks.
NHTSA statistics showed a 22 percent increase in driving speeds in several metropolitan areas. There’s also a disturbing trend toward decreased seatbelt use from April 2020 through the summer. Among the alarming statistics is an increased number of tickets for speeds over 100 mph in some regions. Increased speed, reckless driving, and failure to use seatbelts contributed to an overall uptick in crashes resulting in fatalities.
The NHTSA asks Americans to be more careful on the road
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes,” the NHTSA says.
Among its many duties, the agency writes and enforces U.S. motor vehicle safety standards, licenses auto manufacturers, and conducts safety testing. The NHTSA also conducts research and analysis such as the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a traffic safety source to help design safer automobiles and traffic enforcement policies worldwide.
In its open letter, the NHTSA cites risky behavior as the primary cause for the jump in deadly crashes. Risky behaviors include disobeying speed limits, failing to wear safety belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. along with increased speed and decreased seatbelt use, the agency also reported that 65 percent of drivers at trauma centers after serious crashes tested positive for drug or alcohol use. In the letter, the NHTSA urges motorists to make responsible choices. Those include driving sober, making certain everyone in the vehicle uses their safety belts, and staying within posted speed limits.
“Traffic laws and the rules of the road are there to protect all of us. Following the rules of the road makes it much more likely that you will get home safely,” the letter states.
The NHTSA’s release added an appeal to the driving public: “The men and women at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are asking every one of our Nation’s drivers to stop taking unnecessary risks on the road. Let’s remember our safe driving practices — you may end up saving a life today.”
Follow the NHTSA’s advice
Safe driving is not just about obeying laws when someone is watching. Less traffic on the road doesn’t mean drivers should lose focus on car safety. The privilege of driving carries with it a responsibility to protect yourself and those around you.
So follow the NHTSA’s advice, and stop taking unnecessary risks on the road.