Travel restrictions and social distancing took a lot of drivers off the road in 2020. Due to the pandemic, fewer people were commuting to and from work, schools went to a remote learning model, and a lot of people just stayed at home. As a result, there was considerably less traffic overall in Chicago, throughout Illinois, and across the United States—yet remarkably, the number of traffic deaths actually increased despite fewer cars on the road.
Last year, an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes, making 2020 the deadliest year for roadway fatalities since 2007, according to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Compared to 2019, traffic fatalities were up 5% for occupants of passenger vehicles; 5% for pedalcyclists (people riding bicycles); and 9% for motorcyclists. Deaths stayed flat for pedestrians and decreased slightly for occupants of large trucks.
Why were there so many car accidents in 2020 despite fewer cars on the road?
Speeding, other unsafe driving behaviors are to blame
With fewer people using the roads, motorists who did continue to drive took advantage of the situation and treated regular streets and highways like the Chicago Motor Speedway. Speeding rose dramatically during the pandemic, and here in Chicago, traffic fatalities in the city rose by 44% from April 2020 to November 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019.
The dangers of speeding have been known for years, but in 2020, we took a big step back and essentially erased decades worth of progress. It’s worth remembering that speeding is dangerous because it increases your odds of losing control of your vehicle, and the faster you’re driving, the more severe the impact will be if you’re involved in a crash (which means you’re also at a much higher risk of suffering severe and potentially fatal injuries due to the increased force of impact).
Still, speeding wasn’t the only reason traffic fatalities reached a 13-year high in 2020. Other dangerous driving habits, like not wearing a seatbelt and drunk driving, also contributed to the surge in roadway deaths. With fewer vehicles on the road, some drivers fell into bad habits. During the pandemic, it was common for motorists to roll through stop signs, not use their turn signals, and make unsafe lane changes.
Distracted driving, which has become an epidemic of its own in Chicago and across the United States, also likely played a role. With more people turning to their computers, tablets, and phones to connect with loved ones or work remotely, cognitive distraction turned a lot of drivers into “Zoom zombies.”
The cumulative effect of all this was more dangerous roads and highways for everyone, which in turn resulted in a fatal accident upsurge.
Negligent drivers need to be held accountable
The pandemic certainly didn’t do us any favors with regard to traffic safety and the progress we’ve made over the years. Nevertheless, it’s still the duty of every motorist to share the road and practice safe driving habits. All it takes is one poor decision by a driver to change someone’s life forever. Accordingly, it’s critical that reckless drivers are forced to answer for their negligence, especially when their actions cause serious harm to others.
If you’ve been injured or a loved one died in a car accident, let our Chicago attorneys fight for the justice and financial compensation you deserve. By hiring a car accident lawyer, you can send a strong message that reckless driving is unacceptable on our roads.
To learn more about your legal rights and options after a serious crash, contact us today for a free consultation. We offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis and would be honored to see how we can help you.