Automobile accidents and fatalities are unfortunately very common around the globe. Many nations are working hard to tackle this growing problem and have placed stricter rules and regulations around driving to reduce the number of road traffic accidents and fatalities.
The United States saw a decline in fatalities from 2016 to 2019; however, the pandemic disrupted this decline, and there has been a surge in fatalities over the last two years. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association detected a five percent spike in pedestrian deaths from 2019 to 2020.
What Was Expected When the Pandemic Began?
Initially, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, many experts hypothesized and expected a steep decline in the number of road traffic accidents and pedestrian fatalities due to the lockdown. Experts were optimistic that due to the decrease in social gatherings, there would be fewer cars on the road, which would lead to a decline in fatalities.
What Happened When the Pandemic Began?
However, this was not the case, and instead there was a spike in pedestrian deaths and road traffic accidents. Almost all states around the U.S. saw an increase in reckless driving, road traffic accidents, and fatalities after the pandemic.
Until March 2021, there were 20,160 deaths reported due to road traffic accidents, causing a dramatic rise of 18.4 percent compared to last year’s same time period.
Utah recorded the highest number of pedestrian deaths in their state last year since the start of the century. There was a 22 percent rise in the number of deaths compared to the previous year. Texas also recorded a record high of pedestrian fatalities last year. Preliminary data from 2021 suggests yet another spike in that year as well.
Why Was There a Gap Between Expectations and Reality?
The answer to this question is not very straightforward and has a lot to do with human behavior and psychology. There is not one but rather many factors that have led to these surges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lately, people have become less cautious while driving and are displaying more irresponsible behaviors.
According to an expert Rich Grungo, “People were cooped up in their homes for a long time as the number of coronavirus cases started to increase in the country. Once people started going out, they were met with empty roads and felt this sense of freedom that might have led to increased speeding and more reckless driving.”
State troopers and police officers reported that the number of cases escalated in which drivers were stopped, ticketed, and fined for driving at speeds of greater than 100 mph on roads with far lower speed limits.
It is also thought that the fear of Coronavirus itself has caused people to become less fearful of other dangers, such as those that come with reckless driving behaviors. This phenomenon was called “salience saturation” by the director of Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health.
Since the Pandemic, more motorists have failed to follow personal safety practices, such as wearing helmets and seatbelts. Private research also suggested that texting and driving behaviors have increased once again since the beginning of the Pandemic.
Despite all this, experts are hopeful that once a sense of normalcy has returned, these behaviors and the numbers of fatalities will go down again, and the roads will once again be safer.