Preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NCS) show that as many as 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019. The estimated rate of death on the roads last year spiked 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%. The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year over year jump that NCS has calculated since 1924 – 96 years. In 2020, your chances of getting in a car accident went up. 


According to NCS, an estimated 4.8 million people were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, with an estimated cost to society of $474 billion. According to the United States Census Bureau, the U.S. population in 2020 was 331.4 million people. In other words, 1.4% of U.S. residents were seriously injured in a car crash in 2020. 


The 24% spike in car crash deaths has led to speculation. Why was there an increase in deaths despite the decrease in miles driven? According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, “the latest evidence suggests that after decades of safety gains, the pandemic has made U.S. drivers more reckless – more likely to speed, drink, or use drugs, and leave their seatbelts unbuckled.” Ken Kolosh, a researcher at the National Safety Council was interviewed for the article. “I fear we’ve adopted some really unsafe driving habits, and they are going to persist,” Kolash said. “Our roads are less safe than they were pre-pandemic.” In 2020, your chances of getting in a car accident went up and may not come down. 


While fatalities caused by extreme events, such as hurricanes and plane crashes, tend to get greater attention, car accidents remain a leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the NSC, the chances of dying in a motor vehicle crash in 2019 were 1 in 107. The chances of dying in a car crash rank among the top 10 on the National Safety Council list. For 2019, seven causes rank higher:


  • Heart Disease – 1 in 6
  • Cancer – 1 in 7
  • All preventable causes of death – 1 in 24
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease – 1 in 27
  • Suicide – 1 in 88
  • Opioid overdose – 1 in 92
  • Falls – 1 in 106. 


An analysis of the 2020 fatality statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that the main behaviors that drove the increase in fatalities include impaired driving, speeding, and the failure to wear a seatbelt. Engaging in these risky behaviors increases your chances of being seriously injured or killed in a car accident. 


According to the same Los Angeles Times article, the rise in motor vehicle deaths lines up with other pandemic era trends, including increased alcohol sales, drug overdoses, and homicides. 




What can drivers do to protect themselves and their families?


Drive defensively.

Defensive driving means using driving strategies that minimize risk and help avoid accidents by predicting hazards on the road. Defensive driving includes:


  • maintaining attention by not texting or using your cell phone
  • planning ahead by checking weather conditions and giving yourself enough time to make the trip safely 
  • scanning your surroundings by continuously checking your mirrors and scanning intersections before you pass through them
  • braking early, leaving more space between you and the cars in front of you than you anticipate needing 
  • staying calm and avoiding road rage


Doing these things can help to keep you, your family, and others safer. 


If you were in a car crash, call or contact Conybeare Law Office now  

A car accident is a scary, painful, and traumatic experience. It can be difficult to know who to talk to after a crash, but having an experienced Michigan car accident attorney can help alleviate much of the stress and uncertainty that comes after an accident. The knowledgeable car accident lawyers at Conybeare Law Office will help you understand your rights so you feel like you in are in control, and they will fight to get you the money you deserve. To learn more about the wide range of legal services offered to our Michigan car accident clients, talk to our office today. Conybeare Law Office has offices in Saint Joseph and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and proudly serves all of southwest Michigan and beyond. Call or contact us for a free consultation. Remember, if it’s not fair, call the bear.