Fatal car accidents are on the rise in the United States after several decades of decline. Much research has focused on a recent rise in aggressive driving habits that have fueled this dramatic increase, and we will examine the contributing factors here.
Traffic Deaths Have Risen Sharply During Pandemic
According to information from the Los Angeles Times and other news sources, there were 38,680 car accident deaths nationwide in 2020. That is the highest number of car accident deaths recorded in the country since 2007, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In their release, NHTSA officials noted that the 2020 data represents a 7.2 percent increase in traffic deaths from 2019 levels.
Those figures are noteworthy on their own, but they are especially alarming given the overall drop in the number of miles driven in recent years. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration show that Americans drove about 430.2 billion miles in 2020, a 13.2 percent decrease from 2019. Despite the lower number of miles driven, the significant increase in the number of accident deaths means the overall fatality rate jumped from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2019 to 1.37 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2020.
Michigan Statistics Reflect National Trends
Early research indicates nationwide trends are lining up with what has happened in Michigan in the past few years. According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, 1083 deaths and 60,986 injuries were reported in accidents statewide in 2020. Those figures represent a 9.9 percent increase in deaths from 2019, though injuries dropped by 18.6 percent from 2019 levels.
The Office of Highway Safety Planning also noted that despite the increase in reported deaths, overall crashes dropped by 21.9 percent from 2019 to 2020. This data suggests that even though the number of crashes dipped significantly, drivers involved in accidents were more likely to die than in previous years.
Reasons Behind the Surge in Car Accident Deaths
Researchers have not identified a precise cause for the notable increase in traffic deaths statewide and nationally. However, increased risky driving behaviors could be contributing to the higher number of deaths. These behaviors include:
- Impaired driving — According to one survey of driver behavior during the pandemic, drivers were seven percent more likely to drive while impaired during the pandemic, and this trend does not appear to be slowing. In general, alcohol sales soared during the last couple of years, and this undoubtedly played a role in the increased number of impaired drivers on the road.
- Not wearing seat belts — Researchers have also noticed an increase in the number of drivers who opted not to wear their seat belts during the pandemic.
- Speeding/aggressive driving — Drivers have also been more likely to speed in recent years, according to early research. Studies have also shown that drivers are taking out frustrations behind the wheel, engaging in aggressive driving behaviors such as tailgating, failing to yield the right-of-way, and cutting off other drivers.
Injured in a Michigan Car Accident? Contact Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC, Today
The Michigan car accident lawyers at Mihelich & Kavanaugh, PLC, can help you pursue compensation for your injuries if you have been hurt in a car crash due to someone’s poor choices. We can help you navigate Michigan’s complicated no-fault insurance laws to help you recover the maximum amount possible for your injuries. We offer free initial consultations, so contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you.