One the side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that, with stay at home orders still in place in Maryland and many other states, fewer people are out and about. And that also means fewer drivers on the road. Logically, one would think that this would correlate with fewer car accidents, and as it turns out, that is an accurate assumption.
However, statistics from other states have led to a much less expected or anticipated discovery: a noticeable increase in the number of car accident fatalities.
For example, both Minnesota and Louisiana have recorded more traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 crisis than during the same period in previous years. Specifically, in Minnesota, between March 16 and April 21, 35 people were killed in car accidents; more than any comparable period going back six years.
And, as noted, this spike in traffic fatalities coincides with a period where there are about half as many cars on the roads than usual.
In Louisiana, according to officials, overall traffic decreased by approximately one third after the governor issued a stay at home order in March. However, between March 16 and April 20, there were 66 fatal car accidents in the state. The total number of deadly car crashes in Louisiana for the same period in 2019 was 61.
Presumably, as more data is obtained from other states, we will very possibly see similar trends. So what does this mean and is there a broader message or warning that we can draw from this data? Well, according to officials in the affected states, there are a number of causes for this emerging trend, including drivers paying less attention and driving recklessly and carelessly.
But what seems to be the most important factor is, quite simply, speeding. Fewer cars on the roads means less traffic which necessarily means that there is more available lane space for individual drivers. And that correlates directly with drivers speeding., largely because they can.
Judging by passenger vehicle miles traveled, traffic volume has fallen in every state during the pandemic and this is especially true in major metro areas. Specifically, in New Jersey, traffic has fallen 61% between April 13-17 and in the New York City region, traffic is down 63%. So it is clear that a significant reduction in traffic volume and patterns is a trend all across the United States.
We do not yet have specific statistics or trends for Maryland yet. However, when those figures are eventually made public, it stands to reason that we will see something very similar to the car accident statistics described above. A reduction in overall traffic and total number of Maryland car crashes correlating with an increase in the number of motor vehicle crash deaths.
While it is easy to get lost in the numbers and statistical trends, Maryland drivers should treat this information as a warning. For those of us who do venture out onto the roads, the lack of traffic and gridlock will serve as temptation to do the very things that increase risk, specifically speeding and driving recklessly.
We all understand that car accidents are inevitable and part of the risk of venturing out onto the roads. But part of that implicit recognition is the notion that the overwhelming majority of accidents result in personal injury, not death. Understanding that the chances of increased fatality on the roads may be a part of our “new normal” during this crisis can help guide our individual and collective decision making.
Certainly, a big part of that is making sure that we ourselves obey the Maryland vehicular laws. However, in addition, but we should also be cognizant of how others on the road are driving. You are as, if not more, likely to be injured in an accident by the negligence or recklessness of another driver as you are your own. Continue to be as safe and vigilant on the road as you are in dealing with the other threats we face as a result of this pandemic.
We hope and pray that Maryland’s drivers avoid this apparent national trend. There will almost certainly be fewer car accidents. The goal, however, will be to ensure that when the inevitable accidents happen, we maintain (or even lower) the normal fatality rate. If we all work together, we can make this goal a reality.
And, as always, if you are involved in a car accident in Maryland, please do not hesitate to contact Dubo Law. As a top-rated law firm concentrating in personal injury cases, we will do what we always do – make sure that you receive first class legal services. And there is no fee unless there is a recovery, so there is no risk to you.