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There were MORE car crash deaths in 2020 than in 2019

Why did Car Crash Deaths Increase During the Covid-19 Pandemic Era of Far Less Driving?


2020 and the pandemic era has seen a sharp rise in car crash fatalities. And unfortunately, the skyrocketing deaths show no sign of slowing.

Less Driving

When lockdowns and work-from-home options were instituted in early 2020 to combat the emerging Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. roads became less crowded. Traffic samples obtained from regions throughout the country revealed that total miles driven fell by an average of 13% in 2020. This decrease followed a steady pre-pandemic rise in car travel by 1-2% annually. 

But More Deaths on the Road 

But fewer cars on U.S. roads haven’t made them safer. Traffic fatalities surged by more than 7% last year, the most significant uptick since 2007. Over 38,000 Americans died in a motor vehicle accident in 2020, up from 36,000 in 2019. And statistics for the first half of 2021 show an 18% increase in fatalities from the same time frame in 2020, suggesting that the deadly trend will continue. 


Transportation experts have struggled to make sense of this sudden rise in car crash deaths, especially since roadway safety increased significantly in the decades leading up to the pandemic. In 1970, there were 55,000 fatal car crashes in the U.S. That number fell by almost one-third by 2019, thanks to comprehensive safety measures like airbag installation, improved braking and stability, and seatbelt laws. 

What is the Cause of Increasing Car Crash Deaths?

In our personal injury (our lawyers serve Baltimore and the state of Maryland), car crash and wrongful death cases, we’re seeing an interesting phenomenon that might best be explained by an idea of “less f*cks to give.” Behavior seems a little more callous. Safety, caution, thoughtfulness of others and the world around us has eroded a little bit.

The pandemic era uptick in car crash fatalities signals a major regression in transportation safety, and no one is exactly certain why. Americans in every age group and every geographic area driving at every time of day have been affected, making it difficult to establish a pattern for death rates. The leading theory for the surge in fatal accidents is “a sea change in psychology” caused by pandemic-related depression and loneliness. According to researchers, this widespread mental health decay manifests as increased rates of reckless and impaired driving. They point to several pandemic era correlating factors to support their claim, such as rising alcohol sales, record-breaking drug overdose rates, and a rise in metropolitan homicides. Law enforcement statistics also seem to boost the theory that dangerous driving is becoming an epidemic in the Covid-19 era. California highway patrol officers issued twice as many speeding tickets in 2020 than in the prior year, and crash investigations throughout the country reveal that a larger share of car accident victims are now ejected from their vehicles because they aren’t wearing seat belts.


Some mental health experts are especially troubled by the threat that rising car crash fatalities pose to vulnerable demographics. They note that Black people, who are more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, are also perishing from car accidents during the pandemic at a higher rate than other racial demographics. Also concerning for experts is the increased strain that the pandemic has placed on millions of truck and delivery drivers, many of whom have seen their performance quotas increase in an era of expanded online shopping and supply chain shortages. We’ve seen a great deal of lawsuits against Amazon and related entities. Already stressed to the limit, they may now also be grappling with Covid related mental health issues that affect their ability to drive safely – and put the motorists around them in jeopardy.