‘Carnage on our roadways’: Motor vehicle fatality rate soars in April

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Photo: ablokhin/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — The rate of motor vehicle-related deaths rose an alarming 36.6% in April compared with the same month last year, according to preliminary estimates released by the National Safety Council.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means fewer people are on the roads, tempting some drivers to engage in speeding and other dangerous behaviors. Although the number of miles driven was 40% lower than in April 2019, and deaths decreased 18%, the mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.47. In April 2019, it was 1.08.

“Even without traffic, our roads were no safer,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a June 24 press release. “It is heartbreaking to see the carnage on our roadways continue, especially when our medical professionals should be able to focus intently on treating a pandemic rather than preventable car crashes. These numbers underscore our urgent need to change the culture of safety on our roads.”

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, NSC estimates that as many as 405 people may be killed in motor vehicle crashes during the three-day weekend, with alcohol expected to play a role in nearly 40% of the deaths.

NSC offers tips to help drivers stay safe:

  • Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light.
  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up; designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation; get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue; and drive attentively, avoiding distractions.
  • If you have a teen driver, stay engaged and practice with him or her often – tips are available at www.DriveitHOME.org.
  • Follow state and local directives, and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so.
  • Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic, particularly in urban areas. Conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that streets are getting congested again, and vulnerable roadway users need to be careful.
  • Encouraged your employer to join the Road to Zero Coalition, a 1,500-member group committed to eliminating roadway deaths by 2050.

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