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Warnken, LLC Attorneys at Law, Attorneys & Lawyers, Pikesville, MD

Car Crash Death Cases Increased During Pandemic

Maryland Saw More Car Crash Deaths During the Pandemic, Even With Fewer People on the Road…

Why Did Fatal Car Accidents Spike During the Covid-19 Pandemic? 

Lately, we’ve been following a disturbing nationwide trend of increased car crash fatalities in the pandemic era. As we reported late last year, deadly motor vehicle accidents soared in 2020 as Covid-19 swept across the country, even though far fewer people were driving due to lockdowns and the expansion of remote work. Our investigation continued as this troubling pattern progressed into 2021. Transportation experts initially struggled to make sense of the pandemic era uptick in fatal car accidents, especially since it followed decades of steadily improving roadway safety.

Eventually, evidence emerged linking the increase in car crash deaths to higher levels of dangerous driving such as speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Psychologists have blamed this riskier behavior on the road to “social disengagement” – essentially, a collective sense that Covid has frayed societal norms and all bets are off once we get behind the wheel.

Maryland Is Not Immune to This Tragic Trend

According to new data from the Maryland Highway Safety Office, recent vehicle accident statistics throughout the state align with the nationwide pandemic era increase in traffic fatalities. The report reveals that from 2016 through 2019, the total number of motor vehicle crashes in Maryland fluctuated between roughly 115,000 and 120,000 annually. Crash fatalities in the same period hovered between 512 and 558 annually. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the total number of crashes declined to 95,562 – but crash fatalities increased to 573.

In other words, deadly Maryland car accidents jumped by over 7% in 2020, even though there were 17.6% fewer crashes overall than in the previous year. While complete motor vehicle collision data for 2021 is still being compiled, a preliminary statewide crash report from the Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that 557 people died in Maryland motor vehicle crashes in 2021. While that’s a slight drop from the prior year, it’s still higher than most annual fatality totals pre-pandemic.

So far in 2022, vehicle crash fatalities are on track to exceed the 2021 totals. Current statistics from the Maryland Department of Transportation reveal that from January to early May 2022, 165 people lost their lives in a car crash, compared to 153 people during that same time frame in 2021.

Drivers in Maryland Are Taking More Risks 

As previously mentioned, it’s been theorized that the national trend of increased car crash fatalities is due to “social disengagement,” a kind of mass mental health crisis that has resulted in an uptick in dangerous behavior on the road. And according to Maryland Highway Safety Office data, safe driving habits in Maryland indeed declined as Covid-19 set in – and often at a higher percentage than the national average. In 2020, the most recent year that complete traffic data is available, car crash fatalities in Maryland that stemmed from occupants not wearing a seatbelt increased by nearly 20%, compared to the average national increase of 14%. Maryland car crash deaths resulting from speeding jumped by almost 45%, while nationwide speed-related crash fatalities increased on average by 17%. And deaths from distracted driving in Maryland jumped by over 10%, while distracted driving-related fatalities nationwide went up by less than 1% on average. Notably, deaths due to driving under the influence of alcohol decreased in Maryland by over 20%, even as impaired driving fatalities jumped nationwide by an average of 14%.

Maryland Essential Workers Are in Greater Danger

While Maryland’s roads have become more dangerous for everyone during the pandemic, essential statewide workers are especially at risk of a tragic fatal accident. These frontline employees – the health care professionals, warehouse associates, and transport drivers who keep society functioning during the pandemic – typically don’t have the luxury of working remotely. Instead, they’re commuting to their jobs day in and day out on increasingly hazardous routes.

An influx of dangers on the road is an added stressor to Maryland frontline workers who are already pushed to their limit. According to a recent report from the Workers’ Compensation Commission, more essential workers statewide, such as truckers, warehouse workers, and nursing home employees, are getting hurt on the job during the pandemic. Now they must also contend with added perils to and from the workplace.

In addition to handling car crash cases and wrongful death cases, Warnken, LLC represents many Maryland essential employees, including healthcare workers, transport drivers, and warehouse associates who work for companies like Amazon and related entities. We’ve seen firsthand how much more dangerous the roads are for them – in fact, for all Maryland motorists – during the pandemic. And unfortunately, according to the data, it’s a pattern that will continue for the foreseeable future.