Reckless driving and traffic deaths grew as the nation locked down last year. This trend continued as fatalities from motor vehicle accidents for the first quarter of 2021 constituted the deadliest start of a year in over a decade, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates.
The NHTSA estimated 8,730 traffic deaths from Jan. to March this year. This was a 10 percent increase from the same period in 2020. This rate equals 1.26 death for every 100 million miles driven.
But the first quarter estimates for 2021 are lower compared to the last nine months of 2020 when fatalities rose to 1.5 per 100 million miles. The beginning of the year, however, is the least deadly period for accidents according to NHTSA data. Initially, vehicle deaths dropped slightly during the lockdowns but rose again during the summer to levels that were not reached in years.
Traffic volumes resumed to more normal levels this year. But the data is especially troubling because fatalities rose during the first three months of 2021 even though motorists in this country drove approximately 7.5 percent less miles than they did during the first quarter of 2019.
Earlier NHTSA research of these traffic deaths during the 2020 shutdown indicate that they differed among different groups. Black and Native Americans suffered disproportionate rates of fatalities. Experts cite dangerous roads dividing communities and inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes for this inequality.
The NHTSA attributes this high rate to speeding, alcohol and drug impaired driving and insufficient seat belt use. This trend started in 2020 as rising fatalities were largely attributed to faster driving on roads that had less traffic because of the lockdowns.
A representative of the Governors Highway Safety Administration said that state law enforcement agencies are undertaking high visibility of enforcement of traffic laws to lower these rates. But, according to this representative, too many drivers do not recognize that risky driving as a threat. Motorists must drive slower, quit using their electronic devices, drive sober and use their seatbelts to prevent accident deaths.
Victims of a negligent or reckless driver can suffer death or life-altering and serious injuries. Attorneys can help victims and their families seek compensation.