Vehicle-Related Fatalities Increase in 2020 Despite Fewer Drivers - How to Stay Safe on the Road

Recently, data from the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that motor vehicle deaths in 2020 increased by 8% compared to 2019, despite fewer Americans driving on the road. As more and more drivers return to the streets, understanding how you can stay safe is vital if you want to decrease your stress levels and avoid accidents.

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Why Did Traffic Fatalities Increase in 2020?

While the number of vehicle-related fatalities increased by a raw figure of 8%, that statistic becomes more skewed when looking at the number of drivers on the road. Accounting for the fact that fewer Americans drove during 2020 than in many previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of vehicle-related fatalities actually increased by 24% - the largest jump in almost a century - when assessing for the number of deaths compared to miles driven.

As for why traffic fatalities increased so substantially, opinions among experts at organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) vary.

Many experts suggest that fewer drivers on the road may have lulled many individuals who did elect to drive into a false sense of security, resulting in riskier driving. Reports of speeding increased at the start of the pandemic and haven't slowed down since.

That's not great news, as it appears drivers aren't picking up safer habits with more and more Americans returning to the roads. In a worst-case scenario, vehicle-related fatalities will continue to climb in the coming months as more and more drivers clog up the roadways but don't make efforts to curb risky driving behaviors.

How Can I Stay Safe?

If you're concerned about the dangers of driving this summer, you're not alone. Here are some things you can do to stay safe behind the wheel:

  • Only drive if you feel alert. Driving while tired or impaired by substances can significantly decrease your motor skills (literally), increasing your likelihood of getting in an accident or invoking the rage of other drivers.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you notice another driver behaving erratically, try to allow them to pass you, or move away from them as efficiently if you can. Putting distance between yourself and risky drivers is essential.
  • Be aware of your exits. Worst-case scenario, if you experience a malfunction or can't get away from an unsafe driver, you may need to try and get off the road. Always keep an eye out for shoulders you can pull off at, and try and take mental notes of where your nearest exits are.
  • Reduce distractions. Listening to music or checking phones are common activities among drivers, but anything that occupies your mind could be a dangerous distraction. Consider eliminating such activities from your driving activities.
  • Be realistic about speeding. Most people speed out of frustration - they want to get somewhere, and get there fast. But realistically, speeding rarely saves you that much time. If you're getting irritated and notice yourself speeding up over the speed limit to try and reach a destination, take a minute and think about the risk you're putting yourself and your fellow drivers at. Better a few minutes late than in an accident. Try and re-center yourself, slow down, and remain alert as you drive safely.

Unfortunately, even the best drivers can find themselves in accidents due to the negligence of others. If you're in an accident, we can help. Contact our office online or via phone at (423) 299-4489 to speak with one of our attorneys about your case.