Andrew Traub

Rate of traffic deaths rises during pandemic

The rate of traffic deaths jumped in the first half of 2020, and safety experts blame drivers who sped up on roads left open when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses and limited commuting.

The new research also suggested that even small increases in speed led to much deadlier outcomes in vehicle crashes.

A crash that is easily survivable at 40 mph can be fatal at 50 mph or more, according to the study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The results are particularly disquieting because of widespread reports of excessive speeding during the pandemic.

When the pandemic significantly lowered traffic, the rate of traffic fatalities per miles driven jumped by 18%, reaching a level not seen in at least 12 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safety experts have blamed speeding for the increase as reduced congestion gave motorists more room to roam.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President David Harkey said the group’s latest study results showed that policymakers should refrain from further increases to maximum speed limits on highways and freeways.

“Small changes in speed when you’re involved in a crash can really increase your chances of getting a severe injury” or dying, he said. “It’s a huge problem.”

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