Traffic safety impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: Fatal crashes relative to pre-pandemic trends

Traffic Safety Pulse News

(AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety) Despite a brief reduction during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States surged in 2020 to its highest level in more than a decade. The purpose of the research reported here is to advance the understanding of how safety on U.S. roads changed during the pandemic, beyond its initial months, by comparing the involvement of specific crash-, vehicle- and driver-related factors in fatal crashes during the eight-month period of May through December 2020 to what would have been expected had the pandemic not occurred and pre-pandemic trends continued. 

Data from all fatal crashes in the U.S. from 2011 through 2019 were used to develop statistical models of the monthly number of fatal crashes through December 2019. These models were then used to forecast how many fatal crashes would have been expected in each month of 2020 without the pandemic. Overall, the number of traffic fatalities in 2020 was 2,570 (7.1%) more than expected based on pre-pandemic trends. However, a sharp decrease in traffic fatalities in March and April 2020 partially offset an even larger increase later in the year. During the eight-month period of May through December 2020, the number of traffic fatalities was 3,083 (12.1%) more than expected. For more about the study, click here.

POV of man driving on highway, hands both on steering wheel