Traffic deaths in the US rose to 20,160 in the first half of 2021, the highest first-half total since 2006, AP News reports. This figure is also 18.4% higher than the first half of the year prior — the biggest six-month percentage increase since the US Department of Transportation began recording fatal crash data in 1975. Unsafe driving habits adopted during the pandemic are likely to blame, even though total miles driven dropped by over 13% during this time.
Reckless driving on the rise
Despite decades of advancements in road safety, the pandemic sparked a rise in reckless driving in the US with drivers now more inclined to drink, take drugs, speed, or not wear a seat belt. “I fear we’ve adopted some really unsafe driving habits, and they’re going to persist,” said Ken Kolosh, a researcher at National Safety Council.
“Our roads are less safe than they were pre-pandemic.” According to experts, this reckless driving is caused by general feelings of depression, isolation, and loneliness.
Making roads safer
Some states including Georgia, Arizona, and Arkansas passed legislation to prevent street racing, while Texas has made “reckless driving exhibition” (aka performing stunts for spectators) illegal. Car accidents typically result in injury, trauma, and expensive medical bills.
Fortunately, an experienced car accident lawyer can help injured parties understand their legal options and move forward with insurance claims. On the other hand, other states have actually lightened up on their driving laws.
Maine, for example, now only suspends licenses of drivers involved in driving-related deaths for one year instead of three.
Road fatalities up across the board
Road fatalities have risen in 41 states in total with Arkansas, South Dakota, Vemont, and Rhode Island seeing the biggest spikes. Increases have also been recorded across all age groups between 16-65; all locations, including cities, rural areas, highways, and back roads; and during weekdays, weekends, days, and nights.
Researchers haven’t singled out any one factor to blame, although patterns have emerged. For example, the fatality rate for black people increased three times quicker than overall fatality rate, which may reflect the deeper hardships experienced by poorer communities.
“All of us must work together to stop aggressive, dangerous driving,” said Steven Cliff, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. Cliff is encouraging drivers to drive sober, wear seat belts, slow down, and avoid distractions. The Transportation Department will also shortly release a safety action plan for drivers, vehicles, speeds, roads, and post-crash medical care.