Since the onset of the pandemic, you might assume that fatal crashes and crash fatalities have decreased due to restrictions. However, even when there were fewer cars on the road, there was an increase in traffic fatalities in 2020, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. The alarming rise in fatal car crashes in the state has been fueled in part by reckless driving behaviors.
Below, we discuss these findings in greater detail. If you have been injured or lost a loved one due to a negligent driver, our attorneys at Sigman Janssen are here to help. We are prepared to review your situation and discuss your potential legal options in an initial consultation at no cost or obligation to you.
Traffic Down, But Roads Not Necessarily Safer
Traffic patterns were evaluated from March 14, a day after the pandemic was declared a national emergency and K-12 schools were closed statewide, through July 31 of 2020. Researchers compared state crash data to the same time in 2019.
Overall traffic levels and total crashes decreased in Wisconsin, but fatal crashes and crash fatalities increased significantly during this period. There were 219 fatal crashes in 2020 compared to 187 the previous year – about a 17 percent increase. Total crash fatalities also increased by about 20 percent, from 205 in 2019 to 246 last year.
Mark Sommerhauser, the lead researcher of the report, said the findings are surprising considering people were driving less in the early months of the pandemic. A previous report from Forum researchers using data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) found that traffic levels dropped by more than 40 percent from early March to early April.
Although the state saw people driving less and fewer total crashes during this period, the crashes that did happen were deadlier. The number of crash fatalities nationwide, however, has decreased slightly by around 3.3 percent, based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
What Caused the Increase in Traffic Fatalities?
The cause of the increase in traffic fatalities is not definitive, but Sommerhauser thinks that fewer cars on the road have resulted in reckless driving behaviors, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or breaking the speed limit.
The report revealed the following increases compared to 2020:
- The number of fatal crashes involving alcohol rose by 50 percent
- The number of fatal crashes involving drugs rose by about 45 percent.
- The number of fatal accidents involving speeding increased by about 51 percent.
- Fatal car crashes in which a driver was not wearing a seatbelt also increased by about 25 percent.
According to the National Safety Council, drivers may have felt more tempted to speed when the roads were empty. Open lanes of traffic may have created an “open season” for reckless driving.
Speeding violations issued by the Wisconsin State Patrol for cars going at least 100 miles per hour more than doubled in 2020. An increase in driving speeds has also been seen on a national level. Excessive speeding is more likely to result in crashes that cause serious injuries and fatalities.
When it comes to alcohol and drug-related crashes, Sommerhauser thinks that it may be due to an increase in alcohol and drug consumption. Throughout the U.S., alcohol sales have gone up during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even cited a rise in substance abuse among Americans to cope with stress or emotions connected to the pandemic.
Injured in a Crash? Call Sigman Janssen Today
You may be eligible to obtain compensation to help cover medical bills and other related damages. An experienced Appleton-based car accident lawyer at Sigman Janssen is here to answer any questions you may have and discuss your rights in a free legal consultation. You are not obligated after this initial meeting to hire our firm. If you have a valid claim, we charge no upfront fees to use our services.
To date, we have recovered millions in compensation for our clients, including car accident victims. We are ready to help you obtain the maximum compensation possible for your losses.
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