The past year has been a difficult one for everyone across the country. Many lost loved ones, others lost their jobs, schools were closed and businesses shut down. There were stay in place orders, curfews and those who had nonessential jobs had to work from home. All this resulted in a fewer number of miles being driven across the country and North Carolina. Unfortunately, this did not correspond with an equal decrease in fatal motor vehicle accidents—North Carolina saw the highest number of fatalities in 13 years.
Factors contributing to an increase in fatal car accidents
An increase in car accident fatalities has been deemed by a crisis by the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program. While health crisis of 2020 may be the reason fewer cars were on the road, experts claim it was also most likely the reason for an increase in fatalities.
When people are sick, distressed, anxious or fatigued, they are more likely to become involved in a car accident. They are not as focused on the task of driving, and distracted driving is a known cause of crashes. In this case, it is not as much physical distractions as it is emotional distractions. Not only do they not focus on changing traffic patterns, they forget to perform simple, life saving tasks such as putting on seat belts or signaling before changing lanes. Additionally, though the roads were empty, those who were on the road took advantage of the open space and drove much faster. This riskier behavior resulted in more fatalities.
Record number of deaths
There were 1491 fatal crashes in North Carolina in 2020 in which 1506 people died. This was a record high, compared to the previous highest of 2007. Compared to 123 billion miles being driven in 2019, there were only 99 billion miles driven in 2020. This trend was nationwide, as there was an increase in traffic deaths across the board but a decrease in miles driven. As a result, the deaths per mile driven spiked.
While drivers expect everyone on the road to obey traffic rules, this does not always happen. When someone else’s negligence causes a fatal car crash, it might be possible to hold them accountable through a civil lawsuit.