Transportation

Traffic Deaths Likely to Drop Sharply as People Remain Home

Cities and states have started to report that traffic accident rates have dropped in the past month, and so have DUI arrests. As people remain home, the amount of travel by car has dropped sharply. The number of traffic deaths is bound to fall as well.

Motor vehicle deaths across the United States totaled 38,800 in 2019, according to the National Safety Council. It has kept records of traffic fatalities since 1921. Drunk driving deaths were 29% of the total. The council also reported that serious traffic accident injuries topped 4.4 million.

There are several examples of how much a drop in driving has affected driver safety. Other data show how sharply total travel by car has plunged in many areas.

In Hawai‘i County, which makes up much of Hawaii, drunk driving arrests numbered 25 for the week that ended March 17. The following week, the figure dropped to 13. In the most recent week, the figure was just three.

Connecticut has released numbers that show total traffic on major highways is down 40% to 50% on weekdays. On weekends, the drop is close to 70%. Brad Overturf, a Department of Transportation supervising planner in Connecticut, commented, “We knew that [traffic] volume was way down, but it was still a shock to see the numbers. It brings it home that this is very serious.”

Dave Werner of the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board in Pennsylvania said, “With significant less travel expected until the coronavirus comes under control and the restrictions lifted, vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities will also fall.”

Ridesharing traffic also has declined sharply. Driver data from Uber shows that activity has dropped by 70%.

While none of these cases proves that reduced traffic has caused fewer driving accidents, and likely fewer traffic fatalities, taken as a whole, they point to the conclusion that the number of traffic deaths will drop in 2020.