Deaths due to drunk driving collisions increased by 9% in 2020 compared to 2019 despite the fact the vehicle miles traveled fell by 13% due to COVID-19, according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Safety advocates likes Mothers Against Drink Driving (MADD) say the new data confirms that even as people drove less during the pandemic, they were more likely to use alcohol and, as a result, more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
A total of 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, the largest projected increase since 2007 and a 7% jump in overall traffic deaths as compared to 2019. Yet data shows that vehicle miles traveled decreased by more than 430 billion miles.
Moreover, NHTSA’s analysis indicates impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt were the primary contributors to the overall spike in roadway deaths in 2020. The projections show significant increases during the last half of 2020 compared to those same months in 2019.
MADD says the new data gives Congress even more impetus to pass the RIDE Act in the Senate and the HALT Act in the House that would ultimately require drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles.
MADD has identified 241 available technologies that, if in use today, would virtually end drunk driving and save many lives. In fact, a 2020 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates more than 9,400 drunk driving deaths could be prevented each year when drunk driving prevention technology is made standard on every new car.
Every day, 28 people are killed in drunk driving-related collisions — that’s one person every 52 minutes. In 2019, there were 10,142 drunk driving fatalities nationwide.