Traffic fatalities have spiked nationwide in the last two years due to lasting effects of the pandemic.

At the beginning of 2020, traffic incidents and speed-related deaths in the U.S. increased by 11%, according to a study conducted by an insurance marketplace company Quote Wizard. This sudden significant rise in traffic fatalities seemed to be directly correlated with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the height of the pandemic, during lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, traffic on the roads decreased significantly. You would have thought that, with fewer cars on the road, fatalities would have gone down, but it was the opposite,” Nick VinZant, a senior research analyst for Quote Wizard, said. “What we found is that people were really traveling too fast on these less congested roadways and taking too many risks which were really reflected in the number of traffic fatalities.”

Cars turn left on a green arrow at a traffic light located on Harrison Boulevard, while other drivers wait for the light to turn green. (Kennedy Robins/ The Signpost)
Cars turn left on a green arrow at a traffic light located on Harrison Boulevard, while other drivers wait for the light to turn green. (Kennedy Robins/ The Signpost)

Although the pandemic seems to be a root cause of the increase in speed-related deaths, the numbers don’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, traffic fatalities have risen by 16% in just the first half of 2021.

“It looked like it was going to level off towards the end of 2020 and that this momentary increase wasn’t going to become a trend,” VinZant said. “What has been difficult to explain though is why, in the first half of 2021, we have continued to see a high number of fatalities. The big concern is that we are still seeing this excessive speed and high-risk-taking behavior transitioning into the increased traffic flow.”

It is unclear whether or not these speed-related deaths will decrease as the world continues to recover from COVID-19; however, it does not look optimistic. Traffic fatalities are still gradually increasing and no longer seem to be following the pattern of the pandemic.

Those who seem to be most at risk of traffic fatalities are people ages 25 to 34. Generally, people within this age group have been found to be more likely to drive more often at higher speeds.

“In pre-pandemic years, we observed higher rates of non-fatal accidents in younger drivers, specifically people between the ages of 16 and 19. Most of the fatalities, though, occurred in older drivers,” VinZant said. “That changed during the pandemic, however, where we saw drivers of ages 25-34 have the largest increase in fatalities. When you boil down the factors, what you are really left with is people taking more risks, traveling at higher speeds, on less congested roads.”

All drivers, especially people within this age group, are encouraged to make road safety a higher priority. Following the rules of the road, staying within the speed limit at all times and wearing a seatbelt are all simple things that people can do to ensure a safer driving experience for themselves and others.

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