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Surge in risky driving behaviors during COVID-19 pandemic causing more car accidents and fatalities

Driver on phone with a drink

By: Grace Hancock

You may have heard that the rate of car accidents has gone up in 2020. Or, you may be a frequent driver who has witnessed more risky behaviors on the road in the past year. Why has this happened?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the NHTSA) is an agency of the U.S. federal government. It is the job of the NHTSA to reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes through the enforcement of vehicle performance standards and partnerships with state and local governments. Two reports recently published by the NHTSA, reveal how changes in driver’s behaviors that have occurred since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020 have impacted motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. Additionally, in a report by the National Safety Council, preliminary data shows that 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. That marks an 8% increase over 2019 in a year where people drove significantly less frequently because of the pandemic.

Fewer cars on the road

The NHTSA report shows what we all already know;  that the total traffic volume decreased by 16% in the first six months of 2020. This decrease happened at the same time as the height of the COVID-19 public health crisis. You may recall how empty the roads, highways, and parking lots looked during the spring and summer of 2020. So if it’s true that there were fewer cars on the road in 2020, then how could it also be true that the rate of car accidents in 2020 increased?

Increase in Risky Driving Behaviors 

The NHTSA suggests that during the height of the national COVID-19 public health emergency, driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly. Drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behaviors. There was a noticeable increase in drivers speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence. 

Traffic data shows that average speeds increased during the second half of 2020.  Evidence also suggests that fewer people involved in these high-speed crashes wore their seatbelts.

risky driving behaviors rate of car accidents increase 2020

Were these Risky Driving Patterns Seen in Tampa? 

Unfortunately, yes. The Tampa Bay Times revealed in an article published in April of 2020 that although traffic in Tampa had dropped by 30 percent, the rate of red-light violations had increased by two-thirds compared to the same time frame a year prior.  Many law enforcement agencies have stopped pulling people over for all driving and traffic violations except extreme speeding in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections. In April of last year, moving violations were down 92 percent. It is suspected that this percentage drop was due to a mix of these social distancing practices observed by much of law enforcement and less traffic statewide in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times suggests that drivers are more inclined to engage in risky driving practices because of clearer roads and the lack of the threat of facing legal punishment.

Tampa-area officials, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, report that they have lately received an unusually high amount of complaints about speeding. Mayor Castor is quoted as saying “Individuals need to understand that just because there’s less traffic on the roadways does not mean that the speed limit is not in effect.” She continues to say, “I mean, we’ve seen some horrific examples of what speed can do on our roadways.” The recent fatal crashes on Bayshore Boulevard and on Adamo Drive serve as such horrific examples and underline the importance of engaging in safe driving practices while on the road.

What you can do to stay safe on the road

The COVID-19 pandemic is not yet behind us. Now, more than ever, we should all be engaging in safe driving practices. While on the road, please make sure that you are wearing your seatbelt. Remember to follow the relevant speed limit and to use the appropriate turning signals. Also, it should go without saying to never engage in risky driving behaviors like distracted driving or drunk driving.

Contact Us Today

If you have been a victim of a car accident due to any of these risky driving behaviors, contact us today to find out how we can help. Your focus should be on healing, we will take care of everything else. Call us for a free consultation at (813) 534-6463 or fill out our online contact form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.