Drivers' Speed, Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries, are all Up During the Pandemic


By Attorney Terrence M. Polich

As pandemic restrictions ease, if you have been driving more, you may have noticed a lot of bad driving behavior.  If you have, it is not your imagination.  Experts are telling us that speed and dangerous driving behaviors increased during the pandemic, leading to higher fatality rates.  Unfortunately, these dangerous behaviors are continuing even now, as more drivers are returning to the roadways.   

Early in the pandemic, responding to public health directives, people stayed home in unprecedented numbers.  With little traffic on the roadways, drivers' average speeds increased.  As a result, in early 2020 the rate of traffic deaths increased by 18%, reversing previous trends and rising to a level not seen in at least 12 years.  Safety experts say the increase is driven by speeding and reduced congestion. 

A little bit of speed goes a long way to causing more accident deaths.  For example, a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ("IIHS") and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that a crash that is easily survivable at 40 mph can be fatal at 50 mph.  Likewise, small increases in speed, lead to greater injuries in nonfatal car crashes.  A 2019 IIHS study found that increases in speed limits have resulted in almost 37,000 additional deaths over the prior 25 years. 

As pandemic restrictions loosen and more people take to the roads, keep in mind that many drivers have not been driving much during the pandemic and are out of practice.  Drive defensively, slow down and leave plenty of distance between you and the motorist ahead of you.  Above all, don't drink and drive and don't text and drive.  If we follow these simple tips, it will keep all of us safer. 

Attorney Polich is a partner at Lawton & Cates, S.C., specializing in car and truck accident cases and consumer warranty litigation.  Learn more about our personal injury attorneys in Madison Wisconsin.