The new statistics for automobile accident deaths are out and the news isn’t good. The country saw fatal accidents rise in 2022 when experts thought they might decrease. The pandemic in 2020 significantly skewed accident data, but experts believed the pattern that emerged before the pandemic of a decrease in traffic fatalities would return after the crisis ended. Unfortunately, it looks like they were wrong and have several theories behind the increase in fatal accidents.
Risky Behaviors Skyrocket
One prevailing theory behind the rise in fatal car accidents is that after spending over a year under quarantines, travel restrictions, social distancing requirements, and other isolating mandates, people began participating in risky behaviors as a way to cope with their loneliness. These risky behaviors have manifested in drug and alcohol abuse, driving too fast, and not taking safety precautions like wearing a seatbelt.
These risky behaviors are incompatible with safely driving a motor vehicle and as a result, the number of accidents increased along with the number of related deaths. While experts expect these behaviors to eventually settle down into pre-pandemic levels, it hasn’t happened yet, which is why 2022’s data is still out of whack.
At the height of the pandemic, highways were virtually empty except for those people who still had to physically go to work. These drivers got used to the lack of traffic and discovered they could go faster on the roads than ever before. When the traffic returned, these drivers had developed the bad habit of speeding, which makes accidents worse in several ways.
First, when you’re traveling at higher speeds, your stopping distance is shorter. So, if a car, person, or other object darts out in front of you, it’s much harder to avoid a collision when you’re speeding. Second, high speed collisions are more severe than crashes that happen at lower speeds, which means injuries will also be more severe, with many leading to death.
U.S. streets were never meant to handle as many people as they do and infrastructure improvements just aren’t keeping up. As more and more people hit the roads, the deteriorating infrastructure will continue to lead to unsafe conditions. Crumbling bridges, too-narrow streets, a lack of space for pedestrians and cyclists, and other traffic problems are creating the right circumstances for car accidents.
Governments are struggling to address the infrastructure issues in their cities, but it’s challenging to complete improvement projects in time for them to impact safety. In fact, construction zones actually lead to additional unsafe conditions, but drivers have to put up with them to eventually see the results of infrastructure improvement efforts.
What Can You Do?
As a driver, there’s not much you can do about the infrastructure problems or other people’s bad choices and behavior. But, you can take care of your own safety by obeying the speed limit, wearing your seatbelt, driving sober, and paying attention to the risks around you.
U.S. streets are deadlier than ever, which makes it difficult to even want to drive. Unfortunately, most of us have to get into a car at one time or another, so the best thing you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible is to be vigilant and monitor your own driving habits.