Detroit (AP) —Last year, a pandemic blockade and a stay-at-home order moved many drivers away from US roads and highways. However, adventurous people found open lanes that could lead to reckless driving, and the number of road fatalities surged across the country.
The non-profit National Safety Council estimates in a report published Thursday that 42,060 people died in car accidents in 2020, up 8% from 2019 and the first surge in four years.
In addition, the case fatality rate per 100 million miles has skyrocketed by 24%. This is the largest annual growth rate since Congress began collecting data in 1923.
Traffic is now approaching pre-coronavirus levels, but bad behavior on the roads continues, officials say.
Michael Hanson, Head of Road Safety at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said: “The amount of risk-taking behavior has increased significantly.”
Last year’s deaths were the highest since 43,945 people died in a car accident in 2007. In addition, the Safety Council estimates that 4.8 million people were injured in a collision last year.
According to federal data, Americans drove 13% less miles last year, or about 2.8 trillion miles, said Ken Coroche, statistics manager for the Safety Council. Still, he said, the number of deaths increased at an alarming rate.
“When it comes to road safety, the pandemic seems to be looking away from us,” Koroche said.
In reckless behavior, early data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that speed is the number one factor, according to Coroche. He also said that examinations of trauma center patients involved in road accidents have shown increased use of alcohol, marijuana and opioids.
In Minnesota, traffic fell by 60% when a stay-at-home order was issued early in the pandemic last spring. According to Hanson, state officials expected a corresponding reduction in falls and deaths, with fewer crashes but more deaths.
“The case fatality rate began to rise almost immediately and rose significantly,” Hanson said, adding that his counterparts in other states saw similar increases. “This has reduced the congestion used by divers and significantly increased lane space. To be honest, we could have exploited it.”
From late March to early April, the state more than doubled its speed-related deaths during the same period in 2019, according to Hanson. Last year, Minnesota recorded 395 road fatalities, an increase of nearly 9% from 364 in 2019.
The driver also drove at extreme speeds using empty roads. In 2019, 600 soldiers on the Minnesota State Patrol handed out tickets to more than 500 drivers to exceed 100 mph (160 km). That number rose to 1,068 in 2020, Hanson said.
According to the Safety Council, collisions are much more serious at speeds above 100 mph.
According to Hanson, the number of speed-violating drivers continues to grow, even as traffic begins to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The Safety Council has adopted fair enforcement of traffic laws, improved infrastructure, mandatory ignition switch locks for convicted drunk drivers, reduced speed limits to match roadway design, and use of mobile phones while driving. We are seeking recommendations to stop death, such as banning laws.
The council collects deadly collision data from public and driveway states. The numbers released on Thursday are tentative, but only slightly different from the final numbers each year, Korosch said.
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U.S. road fatalities skyrocketed despite pandemic miles
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