For those of us who have been venturing outside of the home, the coronavirus pandemic has come with the silver lining that it has become easier to travel by road in the United States.
With more people working from home and sheltering-in-place, the need to get in a car and drive somewhere has fallen by the wayside, and we as motorcyclists have seemingly benefitted from having fewer vehicles to share the road with as we ride.
However, data from the National Safety Council (NSC) – a non-profit organisation chartered by US Congress – should give us some pause, as it suggests that those trips out have been substantially more dangerous than usual.
The NSC data shows that overall deaths on roadways in March is down 8%, as one would expect with fewer drivers on the road. The data shows this as well, with the number of miles driven in March down 18%.
For those trying to do the mental math in their heads, the death rate of fatalities per mile driven is up a staggering 14% for the month of March.
The NCS mostly attributes this increase in the fatality rate to drivers who are speeding, as the open roads mean it is easier to travel at higher speeds, and in many jurisdictions, police resources have been focused away from speed enforcement.
Of course, speeding is only one factor at play, and a deeper look is necessary to fully understand this trend. For instance, the NSC also points out that relaxing driving license requirements for teenagers in some states might have helped contribute to the rise in on-road fatalities.
It isn’t just the death rate that is up too though, as the overall total of driving deaths in the United States is up 2% for the first three months of the year.
For that time period, the following states have experienced notable increases in the number of roadway deaths: Arkansas (16%), California (8%), Connecticut (42%), Illinois (11%), Louisiana (23%), Nevada (10%), New York (17%), North Carolina (10%), Oklahoma (9%), Tennessee (6%), and Texas (6%).
Meanwhile, the following states have seen drops in their total deaths through March 2020: Arizona (-4%), Hawaii (-32%), Idaho (-28%), Iowa (-13%), Maryland (-13%), Michigan(-12%), Oregon (-24%), and South Carolina (-12%).
For clarification, the NSC counts a on-road fatality as anyone who dies while involved in a motor vehicle accident, which included drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.