An estimated 28,190 people were killed in vehicle crashes in the U.S. during the first nine months of 2020, according to updated early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The data represents a 4.6% increase when compared to the same period of time of January 2019 to September 2019, NHTSA said in its latest Traffic Safety Facts report.
The year-over-year increase also occurred during a year where there was a significant decline in overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a result of shelter-in-place mandates, representing both consumer and fleet miles, according to NHTSA. However, consumer mileage represented the lion's share of this decrease as overall fleet miles were up year-over-year, driven in part by the increased contracting for delivery service providers during the pandemic and the booming e-commerce industry.
The fatality rate for the first nine months of 2020 increased to 1.35 deaths per 100 million VMT, NHTSA also revealed. This is up from the 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT for the same period of time in 2019.
To more closely analyze the effect the pandemic had on road deaths, NHTSA provided data on estimated fatalities in 2020 and the percentage change in fatalities for the corresponding months and quarters in 2019. The third quarter of 2020 saw the most significant increase in fatalities through 2020 when compared to third quarter 2019, with a 13.1% increase.
“NHTSA is deeply concerned about the trends in highway safety evident in the preliminary 2020 data,” the administration said in a statement. “The COVID-19 public health emergency, including stay-at-home orders and the subsequent re-openings affected driving and fatality trends in 2020.”
The estimated numbers from NHTSA may be refined when the projections for all of 2020 are released in late April 2021, the administration said.