Traffic fatalities dropped with COVID-19, but fatality rates soared
As he blew by, I estimate he was going 125 mph, weaving through cars, using up more and more miracles and quickly decreasing his supply of them. Somehow, he didn’t hit anyone. I thought about calling the CHP and ratting the little weasel out, but figured if I called, the kid would be all the way back to the crack house he calls home by the time anyone could arrest him. The incident was just that day’s proof of something I have been saying for months: People are driving like idiots.
Turns out NHTSA agrees and has statistics to back it up.
Since there are fewer people out on the roads actually driving during the COVID-19 lockdown, the overall number of traffic deaths has dropped in the time since the pandemic started. That’s good news, right? Depends how you look at it. While total deaths did drop, the fatality rate per miles driven spiked. Drivers of the relatively few cars still out on the road are crashing with far more verve.
NHTSA just released some specs. When you look at the second quarter of 2020, the first full quarter of the pandemic, total traffic deaths have decreased by three percent compared to the second quarter of 2019. That translates into 302 fewer fatalities than the same period last year. I’m not discounting that drop, since Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. However, the traffic volume didn’t drop just three percent, it dropped more than 16 percent. There should have been a lot fewer deaths than there were. The difference is idiots like the one I encountered.
NHTSA said that because traffic volumes decreased more significantly than the number of fatal crashes, the traffic fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled is projected to increase to 1.25 in the first half of 2020, up from 1.06 in the same period in 2019.
“Road safety is always our top priority, and while we are encouraged by today’s reports showing a continued decline in total fatalities in 2019 and into the first half of 2020, we are concerned by the trend since April showing an increased fatality rate,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens. “Now, more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same. It’s irresponsible and illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, taking risks not only with one’s own life, but with the lives of others.”
A NHTSA release went on, stating that during the height of the national public health emergency and associated lockdowns, driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly, and that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Traffic data indicates that average speeds increased during the second quarter, and examples of extreme speeds became more common, while the evidence suggests that fewer people involved in crashes used their seat belts.
In other words, and this is me talking, not NHTSA: people are idiots, and what can we do about that?