In 2019, more than 36,000 people died in motor vehicle collisions in the United States. Then, in March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic shut the country down and had dramatically changed people’s daily lives for the better part of 2 years. While Americans drove less in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatalities from motor vehicle collisions are increasing at a rate not seen since World War II ended.
Between the late 1960s and 2019, fatalities from motor vehicle collisions had been falling year-over-year due to safer vehicles, lower speed limits, and declines in drunk driving, among other factors. By 2019, the annual death rate from vehicle collisions was at its lowest level since cars became widely available in the 1920s.
Figure 1. Fatalities and Fatality Rate per 100 Million vehicle miles traveled 1975-2020
However, in the summer of 2020, vehicle collisions and fatal vehicle collisions began surging, even with less vehicles on the road. By year end 2020, an estimated 38,680 people were killed in vehicle collisions, a 7.2% increase over 2019. This is despite an 13% decrease in the number of miles driven nationally.This trend continued into 2021 with 20,160 people estimated to have been killed in the first half of 2021 alone, a shocking 18.4% increase over the first half of 2020. Behavioral studies by the NHTSA suggests that this rises is attributable to a decrease in seatbelt use, an increase in speeding, and an increase in aggressive and risky driving (including drug and alcohol use).
Regardless of the reasons for the increase in traffic collisions and fatalities from traffic collisions, the reality remains that the vast majority of Americans will be involved in a motor vehicle collision in their lifetime. These collisions can range from minor collisions involving no injuries, or very significant collisions resulting in catastrophic injury or death. The best way to prevent that from occurring is to minimize the risks you create yourself:
- Avoid Distracted Driving – Make sure that your attention is on the road at all times that the vehicle is in motion. Any distraction, including texting, eating, putting on make-up, will endanger the driver, passengers, and other vehicles on the road.
- Don’t Speed – Speed limits are there for a reason. Extensive analysis goes into assigning speed limits. In ideal conditions, things can happen quickly. The faster you are going, the greater your chances of a collision, and the greater of a chance of injury or death. In poor conditions, reduce your speed to reduce the risk of a loss of control.
- Drive Proactively – Proactive driving is anticipating the acts and reactions of other drivers and hazards on the road. Be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. Look for road signs, roadway markings, and potential hazards so you are prepared to react when things occur.
- Maintain your Vehicle – Proper vehicle maintenance prevents mechanical failures that can lead to a collision or a breakdown that puts you and your passengers in a dangerous position.
- Don’t Drive Impaired – Do not drive if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, are tired, or are physically unwell. Impaired driving puts you, your passengers, and everyone you may encounter on the road in danger, and exposes you to criminal penalties if you cause a collision.
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, here are the steps you can take:
- Determine if anyone is hurt - If you or someone else are injured, call 911. If seriously injured, try not to move and wait for emergency personnel.
- Get to safety – If you’re able to move your vehicles, pull to the side of the road or a nearby parking lot, and turn on your hazard lights to minimize the risk of further collisions.
- Call Police – Calling the police is important, an in many cases, required by law. The responding officers will fill out an accident report and document the scene. If the police cannot come to the scene, you and all individuals involved should go to the nearest police station and report the accident.
- Exchange Information – Exchange the name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and insurance information with the other driver, and document the vehicle information (year, make, model, and registered owner).
- Document the Scene – Take photos of the vehicles and location of the collision. You cannot take too many photos. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses to the collision.
- Call a Tow Truck – If your vehicle is unsafe to drive, call a tow-truck. Most insurance policies provide coverage for towing from the scene. Driving a vehicle that is unsafe only puts you and others at risk.
- Report the Collision to Your Insurance Company – Even if the collision is not your fault, report it to your insurance company. Your insurance company will open a claim and contact the other driver’s insurance company.
- Get Medical Treatment – If you have ANY symptoms, see a doctor. Don’t assume that your injuries are minor. Motor vehicle collision can cause serious injuries that are not always apparent immediately after the collision.
- Contact an Attorney – If you are injured, contact an attorney as soon as possible. You only have a limited time to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after a motor vehicle collision. When you call, be prepared to provide the attorney with all the information you have, including:
- The date, time, and location of the collision;
- The names and addresses of those involved;
- The name of the responding police department;
- The names of any witnesses;
- The names of any physicians or medical providers you saw; and
- Any photographs you have;
- A description of your injuries, and any medical records your doctors gave you.
Motor vehicle collisions can be life-altering events. That why it is important to take all necessary steps to minimize your risk of serious injury from a motor vehicle collision. If one occurs, it’s equally important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself. If you or someone you know was injured due to a motor vehicle collision, Romanucci & Blandin offers initial consultations that are free, confidential and carry no obligations. For more information, on motor vehicle collision cases, click here.
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts – Crash Stats, February 2022. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813199
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2020, March 2022. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813266
 See FN1.
 See FN1
 NHTSA Behavioral Safety Research, Traffic Safety Facts, October 2021. https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/2021-10/Traffic-Safety-During-COVID-19_Jan-June2021-102621-v3-tag.pdf
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