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Death Rate From Traffic Accidents in 2020 Highest in Nearly 100 Years

2020 was a hard year for everyone, and surprisingly, one of the most dangerous places to be was on the road. While many were at home, there was far less congestion, but drivers drove less carefully, and the death toll from car wrecks was 24% higher than in 2019.

According to the National Safety Council, the death toll jumped from 38,800 to 42,060 people on U.S. roads from 2019 to 2020. Because there were far fewer drivers, this upped the percentage of road fatalities to the highest it has been since before 4-wheel brakes were introduced nearly a century ago.

There were several factors that contributed to these statistics. In the beginning, cities rushed to create a variety of accessibility options for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to find a way to get out and still function while socially distancing. These included make-shift bike lanes, car light shows, and others like them designed to stem traffic congestion. However, as the pandemic wore on, these measures grew unsustainable. As the traffic lanes opened up, it became apparent that the number one hazard was the design of roads that enabled high-speed driving without taking other hazards into consideration. For safer driving habits to become permanent, changes need to be made, such as stronger federal laws requiring better safety features like collision warning on new cars and ignition interlock systems to prevent drunk driving and discourage repeat offenders.

The numbers were high across the nation, but five parts of the country showed heavier concentrations of deadly accidents. Accidents occurred at rates of 30% or higher than the previous year in Washington D.C., South Dakota, and Vermont, while Rhode Island and Arkansas increased at rates of 26%. The data clearly shows that something must be done.

The National Safety Council also noted that there are some tighter measures that could also curb other contributing factors such as restricting the rules for getting a driver’s license for teenagers, creating ways to cut down on cell phone usage behind the wheel with better laws and technology designed to protect motorists. Some of these features can be had in some cars, but they are not available across the board. If the nation is serious about saving lives on the road, these elements must be taken into consideration so everyone can enjoy the roads more safely.

As Americans seek to recover and learn from the hardships of the past twelve months, focusing on traffic safety is an important first step. There are countless ways we can improve, and the first is to take this death-toll spike seriously. If everyone were to reach out to their elected officials on every level to shine a light on this issue and demand changes be made, those who lost their lives did not do so in vain. Making our laws more targeted, our infrastructure more supported, and our cars more advanced will enrich the lives of our communities and allow more people to enjoy the road.

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