The latest report from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) on traffic fatality has brought both good and bad news,media reported. Thursday’s data covers the full year of 2019 and provides preliminary data for the second quarter of 2020. Last year, the death toll fell, which is very good news. This year, however, the death rate has soared during the new coronavirus pandemic.
That’s not good news, as data show traffic is down 16% in the first six months of 2020. While the number of deaths is actually lower than in the same period in 2019 (8,870 traffic deaths, down 3.3 percent), the traffic death rate per 100 million vehicle miles has risen from 1.06 to 1.25. In other words, in the first half of this year, more than one person was killed for every 100 million miles a driver traveled.
James Owens, deputy director of NHTSA, said the rise in mortality since April was worrying. In collecting data, NHTSA noted a trend that drivers who continued to drive on the road were more likely to behave more dangerously, such as speeding, not wearing seat belts, and driving under the condition of alcohol or drugs. Between mid-March and mid-July, NHTSA also collected data from participating trauma centers on the arrival of serious or fatally injured drivers — 67 percent of them tested positive for at least one active drug, including alcohol. The number of drivers who drive while taking opioids has almost doubled, and the proportion of marijuana has risen by as many as 50 percent.
But the figures show that things are much better than in 2018 and 2019. Deaths from all types of traffic accidents declined, with motor vehicle and bicycle accidents falling the most, while traffic fatality fell by 2.8 per cent and cyclist deaths fell by 2.9 per cent. Pedestrian deaths fell by 2.7 per cent and motorcycle deaths by 0.5 per cent. Overall, the death rate fell to its lowest level since 2014, at 1.1 per 100 million miles driven.