Emptier Roads Became More Lethal During Quarantine

During the pandemic, “we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council. (Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


As stay-at-home directives took effect due to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans began driving less and covering fewer miles. But there was a down side: the emptier roads became riskier and more lethal.  In March, the number of motor-vehicle deaths nationwide was down, but the mileage death rate was up compared to the same time period a year ago.

Those are the highlights of preliminary estimates released by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” Lorraine M. Martin, president and chief executive of the council, said in a statement. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”

Based on early data, the council’s researchers found that the number of miles driven in March this year decreased 18.6% compared to March 2019, but the fatality rate jumped 14 %, despite an 8 % drop in the total number of roadway deaths.

In March, 31 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer deaths compared to March 2019, three states reported no change, and 16 states reported more deaths.

The National Safety Council noted that quarantines and shelter in place directives across the country were the most likely reason for the significant drop in the number of deaths, but that  more information and insight was needed to determine “the alarming rise in death rates.”  

By Tanya Mohn | Forbes

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