Quarantine Traffic Drop Does Not Include a Dip in Fatalities

A strange paradox has emerged with the recent Coronavirus quarantine: less cars on the road has caused more deaths.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), while miles driven during the pandemic has dropped by a whopping 18%, motor-vehicle deaths only dropped by 8%. This translates to an increase of “motor vehicle fatalities per miles driven” by 14% compared to this time last year. Indeed, there were 1.22 deaths for every 100 million miles driven in March compared to just 1.07 in March of 2019.

If there are less cars on the road due to the quarantine, then why is it suddenly more dangerous to drive on the roads? What gives? Ken Kolosh, the statistics manager for the National Safety Council, is just as confused when he spoke to NPR.

“What really strikes me is the incredible speed of the changes we’re seeing on the roadways. Looking at other recessions what you usually see is a decrease in the number of deaths, or the injuries and fatality rate holding steady or decreasing slightly.”

Experts believe that empty stretches of highway encourage motorists whom are out and about on the road to speed and drive recklessly.

“Per mile traveled, our roads are less safe than they were prior to Covid-19,” said Kolosh. “A lot of drivers are taking the open roads as an invitation for an open season on speeding and other dangerous behaviors.”

The most likely cause of the uptick in motor-vehicle deaths is due to lead-footed drivers blowing through posted speed limits. The president of the NSC Lorraine Martin sees the rise in deaths as an “apparent open season on reckless driving.” Martin pressed the need for responsibility during the quarantine.

“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.”

The National Safety Council provided safety tips for drivers over the Memorial Day on how to avoid automobile crashes during the pandemic:

  • Follow all posted speed limits, regardless of the density of traffic
  • With more people staying home, watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists
  • If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, remain vigilant; reduced traffic doesn’t mean no traffic
  • Drive defensively by wearing a seatbelt, not driving inebriated or with little sleep, and avoid distractions such as your cell phone
  • Lecture your teenage drivers about safe driving

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