We're driving less but accidenting more!

'While Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, NHTSA's early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes - the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007. This represents an increase of about 7.2 percent as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, or about a 13.2-percent decrease. The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019. NHTSA's analysis shows that the main behaviors that drove this increase include: impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.'

That’s interesting. Every 2 years, we lose about as many people to traffic accidents as America lost in the Vietnam war.

When did that become acceptable?

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Some years ago, before cars became a lot safer, the annual fatality rate was >50,000

I heard a while back that people who were still driving were taking advantage of the relatively deserted roads and driving like maniacs. I’m an “essential worker” so I never stopped driving but I can’t say I noticed a difference.

When he became head of Ford in 1946 McNamara, who had known nothing about the business, was horrified at the mortality rate, emphasized safety, introduced many new safety measures (seat belt, dished steering wheel). When they didn’t boost sales a member of the board commented that ‘Ford is selling safety while GM is selling cars.’

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I sure did. I’ve never had as many people blow by me at 100+mph on public roads as I have since the pandemic shutdowns started. And even though most people are back to driving, the speeds are still higher than they were before.

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In Colorado it was really bad. The increase in fatal accidents was around 30% more with people driving 10% less! People in Colorado don’t seem to obey speed limits in normal times when the police aren’t told to stop pulling cars over for speeding. Drivers under the influence also went up.

A lot of that is due to increased seat belt use and the creation of the interstate highway system. A lot of the safety improvements in cars have been undone by increased driving speeds. Even today half of all fatalities in the US are from the <10% of drivers who didn’t buckle up. That’s a 5:1 increase, even though cars have airbags! In the 1980s seat belt use was much lower! I don’t think safety in head on highway accidents for belted occupants has actually improved all that much. >5 deaths per 100M miles in the 70s compared to 1.11 today is huge, but if you compare belted occupants then to belted occupants today the difference would be much lower.