The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said traffic deaths decreased 2% in 2019. Pedestrian deaths dropped 2.7%, bicyclist fatalities dropped 2.9%, motorcycle deaths dropped by 0.5%. Deaths in passenger vehicles fell 2.8%. The downward trend is continuing in 2020 because people are driving fewer miles due to the pandemic.
However, deaths in crashes involving heavy trucks fell by only one person from 5,006 in 2018 to 5,005 fatalities in 2019. This is another example of how deadly and catastrophic truck accidents are when a big rig tractor trailer weighing 80,000 pounds collides with much smaller passenger vehicles weighing 4,000 pounds.
The statistics were not all good. Because traffic volume fell more than the number of fatal crashes, it increased the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled to 1.25.
NHTSA remains concerned about these statistics because of a trend since April of 2000, resulting in increased fatality rates. With less traffic on roads, drivers took more risks including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Average speed increases and incidents with drivers caught driving at extreme speeds rose significantly.
A study of people injured or killed in crashes who were treated at five large trauma centers found that from mid-March to mid-July in 2020 almost two-thirds of drivers tested positive for at least one drug, including marijuana, alcohol or opioids. NHTSA said the number of drivers testing positive for opioids nearly doubled after mid-March compared with the previous six months. Marijuana use was up 50%.
It is important for drivers to be aware of these trends and reduce their speed, avoid frequent lane changes and avoid taking drugs or alcohol before driving.
Van Blois Law attorneys specialize in traffic collisions with an emphasis on big rig truck crashes.