As if 2020 was not difficult enough, Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney Joseph Lipsky sadly reports that the number of people killed on our highways rose nearly five percent during the first three quarters of 2020, even with the majority of Americans being locked down due to Covid-19. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than twenty-eight thousand people died in car accidents during the period from January through September of 2020, an increase from just under twenty-seven thousand deaths during the same three quarters of 2019. The deadly rise occurred during the timer when there were few vehicles on the road when the pandemic began.
While the stay-at-home restrictions emptied the roads of significant traffic, driver speeds rose steadily, resulting in a shocking rise in car accidents and wrongful deaths. Usually, economic slowdowns resulted in less miles being drive, last year’s drop was almost 20% versus 2019. Despite such a large drop, the ratio of car accident wrongful deaths rose by nearly twenty percent, up to 1.25 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
According to the NHTSA “Preliminary data tells us that during the national health emergency, fewer Americans drove, but those who did took more risks and had more fatal crashes,” the safety agency said in a letter addressed to the nation’s drivers. Traffic deaths rose 0.6% during the first-quarter of 2020, but they fell 1.1% in the second quarter as coronavirus lockdowns restricted movement. Car accident wrongful deaths dramatically rose by 13.1% from July through September. As the pandemic began and drivers encountered less crowded roads, they drove faster. And with police officers reluctant to interact with motorist, in a need to protect themselves from transmission of the virus, there was a drop in enforcement of traffic safety laws.
NHTSA reported an increase of more than twenty percent in car and truck speeding compared to the months leading up to the pandemic. That rise in speeding had a commensurate rise in serious injuries, as the study also found that nearly two-thirds of all trauma center visits were due to serious car accident, a rise from fifty percent prior to COVID-19. In other words, the number of drivers and passengers who died rose despite a serious drop in the number of miles they traveled.
Another sadly surprise is that the number of vehicle occupants who were ejected in car accidents doubled from 2019, meaning those driving were not using their seatbelts. While vehicle use has returned to near pre-Covid levels, data has found that drivers’ habits have not returned to normal, meaning they are continuing to drive faster and without taking proper precaution. So, while the number of car accident injuries in Florida during 2020 actually dropped to 209,333, from 254,823 in 2019, the rise in deaths due to the increase in driver speeding is more than concerning.
We at the personal injury law offices of Joseph Lipsky can only hope our fellow Floridians realize the less crowded roads are not an invitation to speed. As we all have enough reasons to be concerned about our health, the dangers of reckless driving are yet another matter we can control by slowing down. As the old expression says, let’s slow down and “Arrive Alive.”