Fewer cars, but more fatalities - What's happening on America's pandemic roadwaysMarch 9, 20212 min read
Fewer vehicles are traveling on America's roadways during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but the number of fatal car crashes in 2020 increased exponentially compared to the same time period in 2019.
UConn expert Eric Jackson, a research professor and director of the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center, and behavioral research assistant Marisa Auguste examined the increase in a recent essay published by The Conversation:
Curious about traffic crashes during the pandemic, we decided to use our skills as a social scientist and a research engineer who study vehicle crash data to see what we could learn about Connecticut’s traffic deaths when the stay-at-home orders first went into place last March.
A partnership between the Department of Transportation, local hospitals and the University of Connecticut discovered what many people intuitively knew: Traffic volume and multivehicle crashes fell significantly during the stay-at-home order. Statewide, daily vehicle traffic fell by 43% during the stay-at-home order compared to earlier in the year, while mean daily counts of multivehicle crashes decreased from 209 before the stay-at-home order to 80 during lockdown.
What was unexpected, however, was the significant increase in single-vehicle crashes, especially fatal ones. During the stay-at-home period, the incidence rate of fatal single-vehicle crashes increased 4.1 times, while the rate of total single-vehicle crashes was also up significantly.
Data about all crash types in the state, whether single- or multivehicle, tell a similar story. Although preliminary, police reports have placed the 2020 year-end total for traffic deaths at 308, a 24% increase from 2019.
While the researchers said that it's unclear why this counterintuitive increase in fatalities on the roads has occurred, their advice to drivers? "Check your speed" and "don't drive angry."
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Eric Jackson, Ph.D. Executive Director, CTI and Director CTSRC