Younger and Riskier Drivers Cause Pandemic Road Accidents Spike
Ever since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic experts have been puzzled by a disturbing question; why did road deaths increase at a time when the highways were less busy?
A recent study provides a possible answer. Research from AAA suggests younger and riskier drivers took to the highways in 2020 as other motorists shunned them during the lockdown.
The AAA study considered how traffic fatalities surged in 2020, along with a rise in wrecks involving drunk driving, speeding, red-light running, aggressive driving, and non-seatbelt use. These factors pushed deaths to their highest level in a decade.
Higher-Risk Motorists Drove More During the Pandemic
Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety considered whether the coronavirus pandemic changed the composition of drivers on America’s highways. It found that while most motorists reduced their time behind the wheel during the pandemic, particularly in 2020, a small proportion increased their driving. Those who drove more were found to be riskier drivers than average, even after accounting for factors like age, gender, and how often they drove.
“Our research finds that higher-risk motorists accounted for a greater share of drivers during the pandemic than before it,” stated Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in a media release. “Safety-minded individuals drove less, while many who increased their driving tended to engage in riskier behaviors behind the wheel.”
Just a small proportion of motorists increased driving during the pandemic. The 4% increase was younger and disproportionally male. These drivers are more likely to speed and take risks than the average population.
People on the roads during the pandemic were more likely to drive 10 mph or more above the speed limit, read a text, run a red light, fail to wear a seat belt, or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the study suggests.
The United States recorded a marked spike in traffic deaths in 2020 that continued into 2021. The Washington Post noted traffic deaths jumped by 12 percent to 31,700 fatalities in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same time in 2020. This represented the most significant year-on-year rise in deaths since 1975, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
This was a rise over a deadly year. The 38,680 people who died in 2020 represented the highest highway death toll since 2007.
The spike in highway deaths has seen a spate of deadly accidents in Hampton Roads cities including Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake. The pandemic rise in road deaths appears to be an American phenomenon. AAA report road deaths have fallen in almost all other high-income countries since 2019.
AAA is calling for a better approach to reduce speeds, the most significant factor in the spike in deaths. It states that the U.S. must use more effective methods to determine posted speed limits rather than outdated approaches.
Drivers should avoid using hand-held phones, an act that is now illegal behind the wheel in Virginia. They should buckle up and drive below speed limits. AAA urges drivers not to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking marijuana.
Contact a Lawyer to Begin Your Claim
Irresponsible driving claims lives and leaves people injured every day in Hampton Roads. Please exercise care on the roads. Our Virginia car accident attorneys help those who end up injured in car, truck, and motorcycle accidents through no fault of their own. We are aware of the tricks used by insurance companies to lowball your settlement and will fight these companies on your behalf. Please call us as soon as possible after an accident with injuries at (757) 333-3333.