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Car Accident Fatalities Hit Record High Since 2002

A driver uses his phone to navigate on the highway with traffic ahead.

As you might expect, the U.S. saw a small dip in car accidents in early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 270 million Americans were practicing distancing at that time, resulting in fewer commuters, drivers, and vehicles on the roads. Some U.S. territories reported that the number of car crashes dipped as much as 100% after the pandemic hit.

Unfortunately, this positive news was short-lived as car accidents climbed again a few months after. A recent NHTSA report shows that almost 10,000 people in the U.S. died in motor vehicle crashes in the first quarter of 2022. This is a staggering 22% jump since 2019, and the highest number of first-quarter fatalities since 2002.

Looking Back: Car Accidents & COVID-19

Some may find it surprising that car accidents have been on the rise, especially in the thick of a global pandemic. However, a glance back at statistics before, during, and after COVID-19 reveal that this uptick in car crash fatalities is nothing new.

Despite the sharp dip in auto deaths at the very beginning of COVID, studies reflect the following fluctuations in car crash fatalities in the last few years:

  • 2019-2020: Fatalities increased by 7%
  • 2020-2021: Fatalities increased by 10.5% (an all-time high since 2005)
  • 2021-2022: Fatalities increased by 7% (thehighest quarterly total since 2002)

Possible Reasons for Deadly Rise in U.S. Car Accident Fatalities

With fewer drivers on the road and safer cars being built each year, the consistent uptick in U.S. car accident fatalities may seem perplexing.

It’s safe to say that COVID-19 changed life as we know it in both good and bad ways. Upsides include a renewed focus on a healthy work-life balance, cleaner water and water, and advances in healthcare. Similar advances have been made in the tech industry, allowing us to create safer vehicles.

From blind spot detection to automatic braking, the American vehicle is safer than ever before. Of course, safer features in modern cars are only effective when they are used properly…and when U.S. drivers obey the rules of the road. Although the reasons for the rise of U.S. motor vehicle fatalities aren’t fully understood yet, safety traffic experts believe that a disregard for traffic laws plays a crucial role in these statistics.

The Foundation for Traffic Safety reported an increase in crashes “involving impairment, speeding, and non-use of seatbelts.” Speeding is still the leading cause of death in U.S. traffic accidents, and is responsible for approximately one-third of U.S. car crash fatalities.

The 4 Horsemen” of Death: Risky Driving Post-COVID

Speeding isn’t the only thing to blame for deaths on the road. According to psychologists, there are 4 factors that play a significant part in U.S. auto deaths:

  • Speed
  • Impairment
  • Distraction
  • Fatigue

Researchers refer to these collective items as “the 4 horsemen of death.” Together, they account for more than 90% of car crash fatalities.

Even though many of us are trying to put COVID in our rear-view mirrors, many argue that the pandemic isn’t officially over yet. Regardless, this hasn’t stopped Americans from pushing forward towards a “new normal” every day.

Some wonder if pandemic-related stress is related to the increase in traffic deaths. Nothing is certain at this time, although there’s no reason to rule out the possibility of a relation. Data shows that speeding, alcohol consumption, and drug use have been on the rise for the past two years.

Car crashes rarely have a single known cause. The good news is that experts are learning more each day about the concerning rise in U.S. auto deaths, and potential ways we can make U.S. roads safer.

Take Action: How to Help Limit Deaths on the Road

As we head towards the homestretch of 2022, many Americans are united in hope for a better future. When it comes to limiting auto accidents, there are things we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe on the roads.

Here are proactive ways we can help limit the devastating impact of car accidents:

  • Wear a seatbelt. Nearly half of U.S. auto deaths involve unbelted passengers in the vehicle.
  • Obey the speed limit. The frustration of rush-hour traffic or running late for work are dwarfed by the risk of losing your life, or causing other drivers to lose theirs. It’s important to follow traffic laws to avoid inflicting irreversible harm.
  • Don’t engage with other drivers who are driving recklessly or aggressively. As irritating as it is to be tailgated by an impatient driver or flipped the bird for no apparent reason, your safety is a much higher priority than vengeance. If a driver engages is reckless behavior around you, do what you can to get out of their way safely and quickly.
  • Do not operate a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The state of New York prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. But at the end of the day, you are the best judge when deciding whether or not to get behind the wheel. Every time you drive a vehicle, you assume responsibility for the lives of people around you, not just your own.
  • Be vigilant on the road. Even if you are the textbook example of safe driving, you are powerless when it comes to other drivers’ decisions. It’s never wise to drive on autopilot. Instead, make sure you are actively aware of your surroundings, allowing you to act quickly if needed.

Did You or a Loved One Suffer Harm in a Car Accident?

Car accidents are a terrifying and unexpected event that many Americans will experience. If you or a loved one suffered harm at the hand of another driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Filing a personal injury claim can be a time-consuming and emotionally taxing endeavor, especially after experiencing a traumatic event like a car accident. You don’t have to fight alone. It’s important to seek reliable counsel from a skilled car accident attorney who can advocate for you, and work diligently to secure the justice you deserve.

Our firm offers appointments on weekends and evenings for your convenience. Call us at (516) 628-6402 to request a free case evaluation today.

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