It’s impossible to talk about general trends in 2020 and 2021 without mentioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns. When it comes to traffic, speeding, road accidents and fatalities, it’s no different. Just like many parts of everyday life that were affected, so too were traffic statistics in the US and around the world.
A BAD START TO THE YEAR
The first half of 2021 was the worst period for road accidents in the US for decades. The number of road deaths in this period was 20,160. This was the highest amount of road deaths in a six month period since the first half of 2006. And this was not simply part of an ongoing trend; statistics for the previous year were significantly lower. In fact, the number of deaths rose by 18.4% between the first half of 2020 and 2021. This is the highest increase between years since the US Department Of Transportation began recording fatal crash data in 1975.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that behavioral research from March through June showed that speeding and traveling without a seat belt remain higher than before the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has suggested that drivers have formed more relaxed habits to safety regulations during the low-traffic periods of the lockdowns, and then have continued to drive recklessly even though traffic has increased as pandemic shutdowns have eased.
SPEEDING AND ACCIDENTS IN THE US
The Insurance Information Institute (III), NHTSA and Bureau Of Transportation Statistics (BTS) provide a number of telling statistics about speeding and accidents on US roads. Speeding-related crashes are predicted to cost Americans a total of $40.4 billion by the end of the year. Speeding is also a factor in approximately a third of all traffic-related fatalities. Most drivers spend around half their time on the road at 10mph over the posted limit, which increases the chances of being involved in a crash by a significant 9.1%.
Young adults aged 16-20 are more likely to speed than any other age group. This is also the age group most likely to say that driving 5-10mph over the limit is not considered dangerous. Unfortunately, this age group is also the most likely to be involved in fatal crashes. In 2021, 32% of fatal road accidents involved a driver aged 16-20. And, per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16-20 were nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 21 and older to be involved in a fatal crash.
Other high-risk groups include aggressive drivers and motorcyclists. Over half of all crashes on US roads in 2021 were the result of aggressive driving, with speeding being the most common cause. As for motorbikes, 48% of motorcyclists involved in single-vehicle crashes in 2021 had been speeding.
While America is not following the general global trend of decreased road fatalities 2021, it isn’t alone.
A study performed by Biomed Central (BMC) examined road statistics in 42 countries, both before and during the pandemic, and found that there was a general downward trend in accidents and fatalities. This was largely attributed to a reduction in overall traffic volume. In the countries that were studied, there was a reduction in road fatalities by 25% or more in 5 countries, 15–24% in 13 countries, and by less than 15% in 15 countries.
However, 9 of the 42 countries studied saw an increase in road fatalities, similar to the USA. These increases were generally attributed to an increase in speeding, emptier traffic lanes, reduced law enforcement, drivers not wearing seat belts, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 1.35 million people have died in 2021 in road accidents around the world. Or, to put it another way, around 3,700 people every single day. While it is hard to predict accurately, they estimate that another 20-50 million people suffered non-fatal injuries due to road accidents.
Poorer countries saw the highest volume of traffic fatalities; in 2021, 93% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Among high-income countries, the US suffered the most road crash deaths, about 50% higher than similar countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan.
A TREND THAT NEEDS TO STOP
Statistically speaking, it’s clear that the US is in a very difficult period when it comes to speeding, road accidents and fatalities. 2021 has proven to be an extremely dangerous year, even more so than 2020 and Americans are dying on the roads in record numbers. Many drivers formed bad habits during the pandemic, and these habits have continued even as our roads have become busier.
And unsurprisingly, the number one contributing factor to these statistics is an increase in speeding. This is not a problem that will simply resolve itself over time, and the only way to break this trend is increased enforcement. For the sake of all drivers, passengers and pedestrians, we need to see increased support for police and highway patrol departments around the country in cracking down on this rash of speeding, so that we can see a much safer 2022.
The key is to increase awareness, by helping drivers to understand how their driving has changed. RADAR speed displays can be an invaluable tool in showing drivers how their speeding habits have changed during their time driving on empty roads. Police also need the tools both in and out of their patrol vehicles, to identify and warn speeding drivers.
Speeding has become a dangerous trend that simply can’t be allowed to continue. And we are proud to know that our speed RADAR devices will be at the forefront of this life-saving police work.