March Fatalities Increase Despite Empty Roads
National Safety Confirms Danger of Driving on Emptier Roads As Motor Vehicle Fatality Rates Jump 14% in March Despite Quarantines
The National Safety Council (NSC) just reported that, although Americans drove less in March, there was a 14% jump in fatality rates per miles driven year over year: “Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving.” CEI issued its ‘Hazards of an Empty Road’ blog to alert drivers about the danger of empty roads and provide insight into how to stay safe.
Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC) show that as Americans began driving less and covering fewer miles, the emptier roads became more lethal. Early data indicate a year-over-year 14% jump in fatality rates per miles driven in March, in spite of an 8% drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019. The actual number of miles driven dropped 18.6% compared to the same time period last year. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March compared to 1.07 in March 2019.
Noted Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won’t do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes.”
According to the NSC, deaths on the road are up an estimated 2% through the first three months of 2020 compared to the same time period last year. This tentatively reverses gains made in 2018 and 2019. After three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, fatalities plateaued in 2018 and dropped an estimated 2% in 2019, according to preliminary NSC estimates.
To help ensure safer roads, particularly during the pandemic, NSC urges motorists to:
- Follow state and local directives and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so; many states are asking drivers to stay home except in emergency situations or for essential errands
- Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light
- Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic as people turn to walking and biking to get out of the house safely during quarantine; conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that reduced traffic does not mean no traffic, and be careful when crossing or walking in streets
- Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions.