Although driving was down during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities soared to 38,680 in 2020, an alarming 7.2% increase over 2019 and the highest number of lost lives since 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.
Factoring in a 13.2% decrease in miles driven, the fatality rate in 2020 was 1.37 deaths per 100 million miles driven, up from 1.11 the year before.
Safety advocates including the National Safety Council and the Governors Highway Safety Association point to an increase in risky driving behaviors during the pandemic as the reason for the steep rise in roadway deaths.
With roads largely free and clear especially during the earliest days of “lock down,” those drivers that did take to the highways and byways did so with abandon. Experts say speeding, impaired driving, and distracted driving were widespread on U.S. roads during the pandemic.
Moreover, motorists themselves admit to risky driving behaviors. For example, according to a recent survey from CarInsurance.com, most drivers admit to occasional speeding and most believe there are places and instances where it’s OK to speed, such as on the highway.