Data released by the National Safety Council found that 42,060 died in traffic violence in 2020, up 8.4% from the 38,800 motor vehicle accident deaths counted in the National Safety Council’s report for 2019. According to StreetsBlog, “because total annual mileage dropped about 13 percent during the nationwide quarantine, the one-year increase in the car crash fatality rate was the highest since 1924,” or 24%. As that article notes, this increase appears to be linked to the nationwide decrease in cars on the road in 2020, which had the side effect of enabling “the remaining drivers to race around recklessly on roads designed to prioritize speed above all else.”
The report goes on to note that certain states experienced traffic violence fatality increases that exceeded the national average. South Dakota experienced a 33% increase in traffic violence fatalities; Vermont experienced a 32% increase in traffic violence fatalities; Arkansas experienced a 26% increase in traffic violence fatalities; and Rhode Island experienced a 26% increase in traffic violence fatalities. As the co-founder of traffic violence fatality support group Families for Safe Streets told StreetsBlog, these figures represent “people: children, parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers. These are lives lost and life-changing injuries suffered in preventable crashes.”
As StreetsBlog goes on to observe, the National Safety Council’s figures also correspond with data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “which estimated a 32-percent death rate increase between the second quarter of 2020… compared to the same period a year earlier.” That represented the highest traffic violence fatality rate in 15 years, with 1.42 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from 1.08 deaths per 100 million during the same period in 2019.
Other reasons for rising traffic violence fatalities include relaxed “licensing requirements for teenage drivers,” inadequate prevention measures for cell phone use while driving, and weak legal and regulatory mechanisms concerning “vehicle safety features on new cars, like collision warning and ignition interlock systems to prevent drunk driving,” according to the report.
In addition to the 42,060 traffic violence fatalities, the National Safety Council found, there were 4.8 million car occupants injured in crashes in 2020, costing about $474 billion. The NSC found that traffic violence deaths decreased in only nine states: Alaska, where fatalities fell 3%; Delaware, where fatalities fell 11%; Hawaii, where fatalities fell 20%; Idaho, where fatalities fell 7%; Maine, where fatalities fell 1%; Nebraska, where fatalities fell 9%; New Mexico, where fatalities fell 4%; North Dakota, where fatalities fell 1%; and Wyoming, where fatalities fell 13%.