The average number of all daily personal car trips in the U.S. plummeted 45% in April 2020, and while the dip in travel moderated later in the year, it has remained below 2019 levels, according to new data from the AAA Foundation.
Even so, fewer vehicles on the road did not translate to better crash data. Rather, traffic fatalities rose by approximately 7.2% in 2020 over 2019.
The survey finds that the pandemic has had a profound impact on commuter habits, with plenty of people staying home and working remotely.
Daily personal car trips — as either a driver or passenger — fell from 3.2 pre-pandemic to 1.8 in April 2020, before rebounding slightly to 2.6 trips for the months up until December 2020.
Moreover, when looking at all modes of transportation — taxis, ride hails, and transit — daily trips in April 2020 by people living in urban areas dropped 42% as compared with 25% for their rural counterparts. Eventually, the dips leveled off to a 20% to 30% reduction in both groups for the remainder of the year.
So what does this latest data mean for fleets? While fleet drivers have been contending with less traffic, problems on the roadways persist.
Despite fewer cars on the road and more people staying home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently estimated that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020 — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.
Many experts blame speeding on open roads as well as a higher incidence of impaired driving, perhaps linked to unemployment, as key factors for the increased fatality rate.