USA: Deaths from road accidents rise despite coronavirus

The number of people who lost their lives on United States highways increased 4.6% in the first nine months of 2020 despite the coronavirus lockdowns that reduced traffic that year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28,190 people were killed in road accidents from January to September last year, an increase of 26,941 over the same period in 2019. The final statistics of all 2020 will be released in the fall.

Authorities attributed the increase to drivers starting to drive more risky as fewer vehicles were on the roads in the early stages of the pandemic.

“Preliminary information tells us that during the national health emergency, fewer Americans went out to drive, but those who did were at higher risk and had more fatal accidents,” the NHTSA noted in a letter to the nation’s drivers.

Deaths in traffic accidents increased 0.6% in the first quarter of 2020, but decreased 1.1% in the second due to confinements due to the coronavirus restricted movement. Deaths soared 13.1% from July to September, the agency noted.

“We believe the big culprit is speeding,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Association for Highway Safety. In the early stage of the pandemic, motorists encountered empty roads and drove faster. The conduct continued even as traffic volume increased, Adkins said.

“A big factor here is the lack of vigilance. We hear from many states that traffic enforcement measures have declined during COVID-19. Drivers believe they can accelerate with impunity, “he said.

The NHTSA said recent information shows a 22% increase in vehicle speeds in various metropolitan areas compared to data prior to the pandemic.

One study found that 65% of drivers treated in trauma centers after serious accidents had drugs or alcohol detected in their bodies last year.

This figure reached 50.6% before the pandemic, according to the NHTSA. He also noted that fewer people are wearing seat belts.

The agency is asking people not to drive high or drunk, to buckle up and slow down to stay safe. It also says that people should make sure their children are in the appropriate seat for their size.