The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a shocking statistic that in 2020, the year the Covid-19 pandemic began in the United States, there was less driving in our country — significantly less: 13.2 percent fewer vehicular miles were driven in the United States in 2020 versus 2019. And this makes sense, as many business establishments temporarily or permanently closed, and most of us quarantined and/or worked from home. Not too shocking, right? Less congested highways means fewer fatal collisions, right?
Wrong: The number of US traffic deaths rose by 7.2 percent. An estimated 38,680 people died on our nation’s highways in 2020, the greatest number of annual deaths from motor vehicle collisions since 2007. So we had far less vehicular traffic, but far more people who died in motor vehicle collisions. What gives?
Andy spoke about this recently with our friend and colleague Bret Royle, a criminal defense attorney with Feldman Royle, PLLC. Bret was quick to point out that of his clients charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or aggravated assault for causing injuries in a motor vehicle collision while intoxicated, a good number of his clients had greater blood alcohol concentrations than in prior years. So those motorists who chose to drink and drive were typically drinking in greater abundance than in pre-pandemic years. And perhaps that explains it… sort of.
Could it be that driving behavior in general was influenced by the pandemic? That folks who experienced anxiety and depression over the rapid spread of Covid-19 and the resulting illnesses, fatalities, loss of employment and business closures were less focused on the safe operation of a motor vehicle? Or perhaps less congested roadways caused motorists to be less careful than usual?
Many of us saw a television commercial promoting a New Year’s Eve event during the holiday season of 2020. The theme song of the commercial was, very appropriately, “With a little bit of luck, 2021 might not suck!” When it comes to carnage on our nation’s highways, let’s hope that turns out to be the case.