girl driving with face mask

Traffic Deaths Linked to Risky Driving Behaviors During the Pandemic

In June 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released estimates of 2020 crash fatality statistics. Due to lockdowns and safer-at-home orders, Americans drove less during the pandemic. However, an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, which is the largest projected amount of fatalities since 2007 and a 7.2% increase compared to 2019.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by 13.2%; however, the fatality rate increased from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019 to 1.37 fatalities per million VMT.

Passenger vehicle occupants had the largest number of fatalities with 23,395 of the total 38,680 deaths. However, motorcyclists saw the largest increase in crash deaths--a 9% increase to a death toll of 5,015. Bicyclist deaths were also up in 2020 by 5%. Pedestrian deaths remained steady at 6,205 and traffic fatalities among people 65 years and older fell by 9%.

Why Were the Roads So Deadly During the Pandemic?

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that factors such as impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to the increase in fatalities.

Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said: “Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Loss of life is unacceptable on our nation’s roadways and everyone has a role to play in ensuring that they are safe. We intend to use all available tools to reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.”

Driving in Minnesota During the Pandemic

Drivers used empty roads to drive recklessly and at extreme speeds. In Minnesota in 2020 there were 395 traffic deaths, which is a 9% increase from 2019 even as traffic volumes fell 60% when stay-at-home orders were announced in the state.

In 2019, Minnesota State Patrol’s 600 troopers handed out tickets to just over 500 drivers for driving over 100 mph. However, during 2020, there were 1,068 tickets for driving over 100 mph.

State officials expected that the decreased number of drivers on the road would decrease crashes and fatalities. However, they were sadly proven wrong. Michael Hanson, director of Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety, said: “Almost immediately the fatality rate started to go up, and go up significantly. It created less congestion and a lot more lane space for drivers to use, and quite honestly, to abuse out there.”

Michael Hanson reflected, “It’s kind of terrifying what we’re seeing on our roads. We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior.”

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

If you or a loved one was injured in an auto accident, contact the Minnesota Auto Accident Attorneys at GoldenbergLaw today. Our team has more than 30 years of experience providing our clients with the Gold standard of advocacy. We know how complex auto lawsuits can be, and our team has the expertise and compassion to help get you the justice you deserve.


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