While the pandemic kept Americans at home, the number of miles driven in the U-S dropped 13-percent. Safety experts hoped that would mean a silver lining of fewer deadly accidents. But they’re seeing was exactly the opposite.
Police say the driver in a Los Angeles crash may have been drag racing before that crash turned deadly.
Near Boston, two teenagers died last year when their speeding pickup truck lost control. Even as the pandemic emptied roads, the number of deadly crashes spiked.
“We knew 2020 was going to be bad because of the trend lines we had seen, but we didn’t realize it would be this bad, said Maureen Vogel with the National Safety Council.
Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council show more than 42,000 motor vehicle deaths in 2020. That’s up 8 percent from the year before and marks a 13 year high.
With fewer cars on the roads, drivers got reckless while police begged for caution.
“We took open roads as an open invitation to speed, drive recklessly. There are reports in some states of increases of impaired driving,” said Vogel.
In addition to the spike in death rates, about 4.8 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year, and now safety experts are calling for action.
“Instead of raising speed limits, we really should be thinking about either keeping them what they are or lowering them, we need seatbelt laws, and then we need distracted driving laws,” said Vogel.
Texas was at the top of the list with nearly 3,900 driving deaths last year. The numbers reveal that during the worst public health crisis in a century, there was also a crisis on the roads.
According to the National Safety Council preliminary data, eight states showed a more than 15-percent increase in the estimated number of deaths, including Arkansas, South Dakota, and Vermont.
Estimates indicate that only nine states saw a drop in deaths: Alaska 3%, Delaware 11%, Hawaii 20%, Idaho 7%, Maine 1%, Nebraska 9%, New Mexico 4%, North Dakota 1%, and Wyoming 13%.