During an all-encompassing business and social national shutdown in March, motorists were driving less but more recklessly. There was a 14 percent rise in people killed in fatal motor vehicle accidents per miles driven that month, according to preliminary figures recently release by the National Safety Council.
The number of miles driven in March this year fell 18.6 percent compared to the same period last year. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven in this country was 1.22 in March 2020 compared to 1.07 during that period last year.
That increase occurred despite an eight percent drop in the total number of traffic deaths compared to March 2019. Shutdowns may have led to the decline of total deaths.
But the NSC also cited anecdotal evidence for the increase in fatalities for miles driven. Speeding is believed to have increased because of empty roadways. During this period, some states repealed road test requirements for teenage drivers seeking driver’s licenses. Hours of services rules intended to combat truck driver fatigue were relaxed for commercial vehicle drivers.
Preliminary data also indicates that accidents deaths over this year’s Memorial Day weekend dropped to 366. This was the lowest since 2014.
The NSC also provided other disturbing data, however. Even though total traffic deaths dropped in March, there was a two percent increase in accident fatalities in this country for the first three months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
This would reverse positive trends accomplished in 2018 and 2019. Following three consecutive years with at least 40,000 accident deaths, fatalities leveled off in 2018 and fell by an estimated two percent in 2019.
Tennessee had a six percent increase in vehicle fatalities during the first three months of this year. Connecticut had a 42 percent increase, the highest in the nation.
The NSC made several recommendations. Motorists should obey speed limits even if traffic is light and follow stay and local orders to stay off designated roads.
Drivers need to remember that there are more pedestrians and bicyclists. Adults should stay involved in driving involving teenage family members.
Families of victims of fatal accidents caused by a reckless or negligent driver may be entitled to damages and compensation. An attorney can help them pursue their rights.