When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing many to work from home and closing many businesses, transportation safety experts predicted a drop in traffic deaths because fewer vehicles were on the roads. The opposite has happened for pedestrians struck and killed on the nation’s roadways.
People are Driving Fewer Miles, But More People are Getting Killed
- New Mexico recorded 99 pedestrian deaths, the highest in a decade, an increase from 81 in 2020 and 83 in 2019. It’s the worst death toll since the state started tracking these incidents in the 1990s
- New Jersey had the highest number of pedestrian deaths in more than 30 years.
- 2021 was the deadliest on Utah’s roads since 2002, with pedestrian deaths increasing 22 percent
- Washington State had a 15-year high in traffic fatalities, with 540 vehicle accidents killing more than 600 people
- Texas pedestrian deaths climbed last year to a record high
In 2020, vehicle accidents left more than 6,700 pedestrians dead, an increase of about 5 percent from 2019, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. If you factor in fewer miles were driven in 2020, the pedestrian death rate increased about 21 percent in 2020 as fatalities went up sharply even though people drove much less.
Even without the pandemic, the country has become increasingly lethal for pedestrians and those in vehicles:
- Vehicle accidents that killed pedestrians increased 46 percent over the last ten years, compared to an overall 5 percent increase for all other crashes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
- Almost 32,000 people died in vehicle accidents in the first nine months of 2021, a 12 percent increase from the same time frame in 2020. This is the highest number of deaths during the first nine months of any year since 2006 and the greatest percentage jump during the first nine months since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started their reporting system
Though technology should be making these numbers decrease, how we drive is more dangerous.
Why are So Many More Americans Dying in Vehicle Accidents?
Many factors are blamed for reckless, high-speed driving that’s injuring and killing more people:
- It’s easier to drive faster when there’s less traffic
- Some police departments, wary of face-to-face interactions with officers, eased up on traffic enforcement or they shifted resources to deal with an increase in other crimes
- Higher anxiety levels
- Increased drinking
- Driving is seen as an outlet for increased anger and fraying social norms
- Pedestrians are getting older, less able to see the risks of crossing a street, and having more difficulty walking from one side to the other
- The increased population of Sun Belt cities, whose roads are designed for maximum vehicle speed while minimizing pedestrian access and safety
- The popularity of pickup trucks and SUVs. Drivers may have a harder time seeing pedestrians, and their heavy weight causes worse injuries to pedestrians than smaller cars. Because of these vehicles’ size, drivers may feel safer and engage in riskier driving that can cause accidents
- Many drivers routinely ignore stop signs and red lights
- The popularity of illegal street racing
Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, stated many drivers are dealing with “salience saturation”:
- Filled with fear of the COVID-19 virus and what it might do, they ignore other threats to their safety, and fail to judge dangerous driving risks correctly
- Many drivers, even if they understand those dangers, don’t care
- “Social disengagement,” or the lack of social contact, which usually gives us pleasure, comfort, and comfort, were missing
If you’re depressed, anxious, or angry in general or due to something specific in your life, do yourself and everyone else on the road a favor by dealing with it in some way other than how you drive. Killing or injuring someone else won’t solve your problems but will make them far worse.
What’s the Next Step?
If you are looking for an experienced lawyer after a recent auto accident, call The Fleck Firm for a free consultation at (270) 446-7000. Our team is dedicated and compassionate when fighting for our clients. We can talk about the accident, your injuries, the law, and how it may apply in your case. You will be fully informed about your situation and the possible hurdles you may face. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.