Driving fatalities spiked during 2020 even though fewer people were on the roads

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File photo of cars (Getty Images).

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC4) – Though Americans were on the roads less during 2020, the number of people who died from motor vehicle crashes surpassed the number of fatalities since 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, says.

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According to NHTSA’s research, Americans’ driving patterns changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, a press release from the organization states. Those who did drive engaged in riskier behavior like speeding, failing to wear a seatbelt, and driving while drunk or high. These were the main behaviors that created the increase, NHTSA’s analysis shows.

An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, which is an increase of 7.2% from 2019.

Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows while miles traveled by motor vehicles was down 430.2 billion miles during 2020, the fatality rate rose to 1.37 per 100 million from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million in 2019.

“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,” says Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator.

“The President’s American Jobs Plan would provide an additional $19 billion in vital funding to improve road safety for all users, including people walking and biking. It will increase funding for existing safety programs and allow for the creation of new ones, with a goal of saving lives,” he adds.

The administration’s research reveals that there was a significant increase in motor vehicle deaths during the third and fourth quarters of 2020 in comparison with 2019.

Preliminary data demonstrates motor vehicle fatalities increased from 2019 in most major categories, such as among motorcyclists, those on bicycles, pedestrians, and passenger vehicle occupants.

On the other hand, fatalities among elderly Americans aged 65 or older are projected to have decreased by roughly 9%.

To view the full press release, visit nhtsa.gov.

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