The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its final 2019 statistics a while back. The overall number of traffic deaths went from 36,835 to 36,096 for a 2% drop. However, South Dakota did quite well with the number of fatalities, going from 130 deaths to 102 for a 21.5% drop in fatalities.
2020 numbers look to be much higher
It will be months before there are final numbers. Still, preliminary data for 2020 confirms what many officials feared — initial reports indicate that the number of traffic fatalities remained steady in the first six months. Still, there was a 16% drop in the volume of traffic on the roads. Breaking this down by the number of miles traveled per fatality, the first three months were 1.10 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled and a whopping 1.42 per 100 million miles traveled in the second quarter for an average of 1.25. The 2019 numbers for 100 million miles traveled were 1.05 in the first quarter and 1.08 in the second quarter. That averages to be 1.065 per million miles.
Trucks-related deaths likely up
The number of truck-related fatalities remained essentially unchanged, going from 5006 in 2018 to 5,005 in 2019. These numbers reflect crashes involving commercial and non-weighing more than 10,000 pounds. The 2020 truck fatality numbers are not currently available but remained on the road. In fact, the federal government relaxed the Hours of Service restrictions to accommodate demands. This means that drivers were driving more miles and likely more tired when they did.
High numbers attributed to risky behavior
The NHTSA study also gave reasons for the increases in 2020. It found that those on the road were more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Common examples include:
- Fewer safe drivers: The risk-averse or safety-conscious drivers were more likely to shelter at home during the pandemic, leading to an increased percentage of reckless drivers.
- Increase in speed: Fewer vehicles on the road meant the average speeds went up, with a spike of cars traveling 100 mph or faster.
- Seatbelts: People were increasingly not wearing their seatbelts.
- Intoxication: There were increased instances where fatalities included drugs or alcohol.
Families can take action
Many assume that reckless drivers die because of their mistakes, but this is not always true. Families who lost a member in a motor vehicle crash caused by a negligent driver may need to take legal action to get compensation for their loss.