There was a 14% year-over-year jump in fatality rates per miles driven in March 2020, while the actual number of miles driven dropped 18.6% compared to the same time period last year, according to early data reported by the National Safety Council (NSC).
This was found in spite of an 8% drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019, according to the NSC. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March compared to 1.07 in March 2019.
Through the first three months of 2020, the following states have experienced notable increases in the number of roadway deaths: Arkansas (16%), California (8%), Connecticut (42%), Illinois (11%), Louisiana (23%), Nevada (10%), New York (17%), North Carolina (10%), Oklahoma (9%), Tennessee (6%) and Texas (6%).
However, there were also states with notable decreases, including Arizona (down 4%), Hawaii (down 32%), Idaho (down 28%), Iowa (down 13%), Maryland (down 13%), Michigan (down 12%), Oregon (down 24%) and South Carolina (down12%).
“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”
Quarantines and shelter in place directives across the country most likely account for a significant portion of the drop in the number of deaths. However, additional insight is needed to determine the alarming rise in death rates.
Anecdotal reports indicate poor driving behaviors such as speeding increased significantly since traffic diminished, said the NSC.
Even with the declining fatality numbers in March, deaths on the road are up an estimated 2% through the first three months of 2020 compared to the same time period last year. This tentatively reverses gains made in 2018 and 2019. After three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, fatalities plateaued in 2018 and dropped an estimated 2% in 2019, according to preliminary NSC estimates.
All estimates from NSC are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data matures.