Does Pandemic Fatigue Lead to Reckless Driving?

It is disturbing to see that there was a 7% increase in car accident fatalities in 2020. How could the statistics go up if most of the country was in quarantine for at least half of the year? We all heard about going stir crazy, but did any of us thought that being stir crazy could lead to almost 3,000 more deaths on United States roadways? Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Even though Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, early estimates of crash fatalities from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released Thursday reveal the largest projected number of deaths since 2007.

According to NHSTA, an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, representing an increase of about 7.2 percent as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.

Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 fell by about 430.2 billion miles—a 13.2 percent decrease.

The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019.

NHTSA’s analysis shows that the main behaviors that drove this increase include: impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.

While passenger vehicle occupants had the largest number of fatalities, accounting for 23,395 of the 38,680 (up 5 percent), motorcyclists saw the biggest increase in crash deaths, rising 9 percent to 5,015.

Carrier Management

Pandemic fatigue is real. All of those days and nights Americans sat in their houses and endured disruptions to their daily and weekly routines took its toll. The lack of small talk at the office water cooler. The missed daily trip to the coffee shop. No trip to the gym. No bro-hugs from your buddies. No shaking hands. No weekly girls night out. There are tons of theories out there on why this or that happened over the past year. These statistics on car accident deaths is proof that Americans’ brains simply did not handle the stress very well.

Maybe the increase in car wreck fatalities was due to increased alcohol and drug use before getting behind the wheel. Or maybe since there was less traffic on the roads drivers thought they could handle a little heavier foot on the gas pedal. Or maybe police officers were simply not enforcing traffic laws for fear of person to person contact and infection. No matter what the answer is, more Americans have died this year than in our history.

What this article reiterated for me was that life is precious. And we have all been through a lot in the past year. Spend time with your family, friends, neighbors, or even someone you’ve never met. We are all in this together. Take care of each other, slow down, and drive safe.

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