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Has the Pandemic Reduced the Risk of a Fatal Car Accident?

Fewer cars and lighter traffic most certainly reduced the risk of a fatal car accident last year, right? While this was the initial train of thought for many in the United States, recently released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows just the opposite to be true. While fatal car accidents were down in the first half of 2020, they increased as the year went on. By the end of 2020, the fatal accident rate per million miles had risen to 1.25 from 1.06 in 2019. That’s a significant increase and highlights an ongoing risk to motorists across Colorado.

NHTSA Data Highlights Hazards

The Office of Behavioral Safety Research compared everything from travel habits to travel patterns in 2019 and 2020. While the number of daily trips taken was slightly higher in January and February, they plunged in March and remained roughly 2/3 lower than 2019 each month for the rest of 2020. That’s a significant decline in traffic; however, it was also accompanied by an increase in risky driving behaviors.

Seat belt use declined considerably throughout the year. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of ejections per 100 motor vehicle accidents. Ejection has long been a leading cause of fatal car accident injuries.

Speed-related accidents also increased. Lighter traffic meant lead feet were allowed to roam free. Observed speeds on interstates, arterials, and collector roads were all up last year. Higher speeds mean a greater risk of high-speed collision, and they also mean greater potential for accidents at points where high-speed highways and interstates meet lower-speed arterials and city streets.

Drug and alcohol use also increased last year. In relation to fatality causing accidents, NHTSA data shows that before the pandemic:

  • 21.3% involved alcohol use
  • 21.4% involved cannabinoids
  • 10.1% involved stimulants
  • 7.6% involved opioids

By the end of the 3rd quarter of the year, those numbers increased, and:

In total, 60.9% of all fatal accidents involved at least one drug-positive category, and 24.6% involved multiple drugs. These represent significant increases from data recorded in 2019.

Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C. can help surviving family members and survivors of a fatal car accident. Contact us at (303) 447-1144 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team to discuss your legal options following a fatality-causing motor vehicle accident.

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