The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that as Americans began driving less and covering fewer miles, the emptier roads became more lethal.
Early data indicate a year-over-year 14% jump in fatality rates per miles driven in March, in spite of an 8% drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019.
The actual number of miles driven dropped 18.6% compared to the same time period last year. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March compared to 1.07 in March 2019.
The highest number comes from Connecticut with a whopping 42% increase, and the lowest, Texas, coming in at 6%.
Other increases are:
- Louisiana – 23%;
- New York – 17%;
- Illinois – 11%;
- Nevada – 10%; and
- California – 8%, among others
Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO says that diminished traffic, reckless driving, and high speeds are some of the reasons for the uptick in road deaths.
Some states are also moving forward with ill-advised roadway tactics intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic but that could have far-reaching consequences. Among them are repealing requirements for teen drivers to pass road tests before acquiring licenses and relaxing hours of service rules for commercial vehicle drivers.
To help ensure safer roads, particularly during the pandemic, NSC urges motorists to:
- Follow state and local directives and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so; many states are asking drivers to stay home except in emergency situations or for essential errands;
- Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light;
- Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic as people turn to walking and biking to get out of the house safely during quarantine; conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that reduced traffic does not mean no traffic, and be careful when crossing or walking in streets;
- Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions;
- Stay engaged with teen drivers’ habits and practice with them frequently – tips are available at nsc.org/DriveitHOME
- Organizations and employers are encouraged to join the Road to Zero Coalition, a 1,500-member group committed to eliminating roadway deaths by 2050.
For the three-day Memorial Day weekend starting at 6 p.m. ET Friday, May 22, NSC estimates 366 potential fatalities. If the estimate holds, it will, however, be the lowest number of fatalities for the holiday period since 2014.