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Why 2020 saw a spike in crash fatalities

As a general trend, the number car crash fatalities in the United States keeps declining. For instance, there were more than 51,000 deaths in 1980, but that had dropped to just over 39,000 by 1992. Since then, the number has generally hovered around 35,000 annually, though years like 2013 and 2014 saw less than 33,000.

Last year, in 2020, one would have expected to see a drastic decline in fatalities. Travel was more limited across the country, many people were either out of work or working from home, and it seemed like the reduction in cars on the road — and number of miles traveled — would lead to a decline in fatal crashes.

Here’s what really happened

This is not at all what happened. Instead, the number of crash fatalities drastically increased to more than 42,000. It was a number far more in line with the early 90s and even late 80s than with more recent numbers, and it was the largest increase between two years (24%) that had been seen in nearly a century.

There were fewer cars on the road, but that has actually been blamed by some for the increase in deaths. The lighter traffic could have increased average speeds, which makes fatalities more likely in car accidents. In some senses, though traffic congestion can cause crashes, it also makes it less likely they’ll be fatal since cars are simply moving more slowly when they crash.

The statistics make it clear that the road is always dangerous. Those who are injured or lose loved ones due to a reckless or negligent driver need to know what legal options they have.

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