In a blog about Distracted Driving late last year, I mentioned what appeared to an emerging trend in 2020: traffic crash fatalities were increasing in spite of fewer vehicles being on the road. It turns out the pattern held, and 2020 had a significantly higher number of traffic deaths in Michigan than 2019.
According to a report from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Covid-related shutdowns reduced traffic between 20 and 60% at times throughout the year. Even so, fatalities increased from 985 in 2019 to 1,032 in 2020. The same results appear to be true nationwide.
If there were fewer vehicles on the road, why did the number of traffic deaths increase? It may be some time before statistical analysis provides a firm answer, but there are some compelling theories already under consideration.
With fewer traffic jams, many drivers were encountering open roads and driving at unsafe speeds. In many areas of the country, the number of traffic tickets for motorists exceeding 100 mph exploded. Another factor appears to be an increase in impaired driving. Numerous studies have suggested an increase in alcohol and drug use during pandemic restrictions, likely causing an appreciably higher risk of unsafe driving behaviors. Other factors, such as the mental and emotional toll of the lockdown, may explain some of the risky driving behaviors that contributed to the increased number of fatalities.
Growing up in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nolan Erickson began working at Church Wyble PC in 2007 as a law clerk. Now as an attorney with Grewal Law, Mr. Erickson has developed extensive experience with all phases of trial and pre-trial resolution of personal injury matters, including major auto accident, medical malpractice, and other serious injury cases.