Mileage Down, Vehicle Deaths Up:  The Untold COVID Death Toll!

When the COVID 19 pandemic began, millions of Americans were forced to begin living a “new normal” where they were staying home more and driving less.  Logically, this “new normal” should have decreased the number of motor vehicle accidents along with the number of catastrophic and fatal accidents. 

However, recent data suggests that this is not the case.  Despite the significant decline in miles driven in 2020, there was a significant increase in the number of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents.  The National Highway Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) reports that fatalities arising from motor vehicle accidents rose about 30% during 2020.  The National Safety Council reports that nearly 42,000 people died because of motor vehicle accidents in 2020, representing the largest tally in 13 years. The National Safety Council reports that while miles driven per vehicle decreased about 13% in 2020, the mileage death rate was up 24%.

While the NHTSA and National Safety Council are not providing any reasons for the increased fatalities, data suggests that those that did take to the roads in 2020 were less cautious.  California reported an 87% increase in speeding tickets for driving over 100 mph during the first month of the statewide lockdown.  Further, data suggest that older individuals, who tend to be more cautious while driving, were staying home, while younger drivers, who are typically more prone to risk-taking, were less inclined to stay home.  Further, the use of alcohol and/or drugs to cope with COVID related stress also contributed to the increase in fatal accidents.  Thus, while people were driving less, those that were out on the roads were engaging in riskier driving behaviors. 

Editor’s note: The transportation industry needs to fully understand the cause of this unusual phenomenon.  If this disturbing trend continues long after returning to normalcy, the industry will be faced with the loss of life, bad publicity, and increased costs.  The transportation industry will be required to focus on whatever changes are necessary, including the use of available technology to meet the increasing need to move people and products throughout the country but to have its folks do so in as safe of a way as possible.    

About the Author

Ross J. Di Bono II is an attorney in Zarwin Baum’s Casualty & Professional Liability Defense Practice Group. He concentrates his practice on complex civil litigation, primarily defending his clients in catastrophic injury cases involving transportation, construction, products liability, and premises liability matters. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Ross at 215.569.2800 x1427 or by email at [email protected].

Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.