Lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus brought a variety of reactions and responses. Some predicted an economic collapse. Others were steadfast in obeying every government-issued order.
Those who lean more optimistic reveled in the idea that traffic jams disappeared. Gridlock on major thoroughfares was temporarily paused. Fewer vehicles on the road could only mean fewer fatalities, right? However, the devil is in the details when it comes to the pandemic-driven reduction of on-road travel.
A tale of two statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a 3 percent drop in overall traffic-related deaths. The reduction was likely due to due to road travel falling around 26 percent.
However, the study also uncovered troubling trends.
Deaths on the road still increased by 30 percent throughout the United States. The number represents the highest amount of fatalities since 2005. The previous year saw a steep decline in deaths at the lowest rate since 2014.
The more open roads apparently tempted many drivers to remove restraints beyond the countless seat belts left unbuckled. Skyrocketing risky behavior also took the form of excessive speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Whether motivated by “cabin fever” or the perception that social distancing guidelines clashed with police officers enforcing traffic laws, taking chances took more lives during an already deadly pandemic.