Connecticut saw a 42% increase in the number of traffic deaths in 2020, despite there being fewer people on the roads, according to data from the National Safety Council. Nationwide, fatalities increased by 14%, despite an 18.6% drop in miles driven.
Why were the roads so much more dangerous and is this trend expected to continue?
Reckless driving was the main cause
The number one cause of the higher death rates in Connecticut and nationwide was reckless driving. Initial reports indicate an increase in speeding is largely to blame. States’ efforts to address the pandemic, such as the repeal of requirements for teenage drivers to pass road tests to get a license and less enforcement of regulations for commercial vehicle drivers may also have played a part. Other factors include an increase in distracted driving, driving while fatigued, driving in unsafe conditions and driving under the influence.
Drivers can make the roads safer
The NSC urges drivers to take steps to make the roads safer:
- Follow posted speed limits, even when traffic is light
- Drive defensively
- Wear seatbelts
- Use designated drivers or take alternate transportation
- Avoid driving while fatigued
- Pay attention and avoid distractions
- Be cautious when walking or biking
- Stay engaged with teenage drivers
- Encourage employers to join the Road to Zero Coalition
According to NSC data, roadway deaths had been trending downward for three consecutive years before the 2020 increase, which suggests implementing safe driving practices can reverse this trend. As traffic patterns return to normal levels in 2021, a focus on driver safety will be critical for reducing traffic fatalities.