Key Points of This Article:
- Despite a significant drop in traffic on U.S. roadways in 2020, an estimated 28,190 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, a 4.3 percent increase from the year prior.
- Preliminary numbers from Michigan State Police indicate 1,032 people died from crashes on state roads in 2020, while the number was 985 in 2019.
- Excessive speed was the preferred choice among the worst pandemic drivers. In some of the most congested Detroit areas, police say average speeds increased by as much as 25% on highways and interstates.
- In 2020, Michigan motorists also engaged more often in risky behaviors impacted by drugs or alcohol, distractions, seat belt usage, and lack of pedestrian awareness.
How The 2020 Pandemic Brought Out Michigan’s Worst Drivers
A dramatic spike in an increasing number of Michigan drivers making dangerous, risky decisions has led Michigan State Police and federal officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to call driver conduct on Michigan roads in 2020 unprecedented.
According to statistics compiled by the NHTSA and published in January 2021:
- During the first nine months of 2020, an estimated 28,190 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide, increasing about 4.6% compared with the 26,941 fatalities reported in the first nine months of 2019.
- The number of single-vehicle crashes was up, suggesting that the uptick in fatal crashes resulted from speeding, lack of seatbelt wearing, and risky behavior.
- The most significant jump in traffic deaths occurred over the summer months when traffic fatalities spiked 13.1% during July, August, and September 2020.
- Speeds increased on average by 22% in many urban areas during the pandemic.
- Passenger seat belt use fell from 75.4% before the pandemic to 59.2% between March and July 2020.
Due to the influx of road deaths in 2020, the NHTSA launched public campaigns in some of the most at-risk states, including Michigan. The agency focused on reaching motorists who have adopted risky driving practices during the pandemic like speeding, distracted driving, drunk and drugged driving, pedestrian safety, and failure to wear their seatbelt.
Michigan Crash Statistics Line Up with Federal Trends
Risky driving behaviors leave thousands of innocent victims and their families in its wake every year, but not as heavy as 2020. Michigan State Police have released preliminary numbers to match the NHTSA’s crash fatality data. In 2019, Michigan reported 985 traffic fatalities, and in 2020, 1,032 road fatalities from all crashes. The hike occurred even though traffic volume was down across the state as much as 60% in the pandemic’s peak weeks.
Speed was a significant factor in crashes statewide. Average speeds rose significantly on urban and rural roads during 2020, according to Michigan State Police. And Michiganders increased their speed on average by 25% or more than 90 miles an hour in major urban areas including Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint, Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Muskegon, Marquette, Jackson, and Battle Creek raising a higher likelihood of pandemic era crashes in those communities.
2020’s Documented Rise in Drunk and Drugged Driving
The rise in severe crash injuries and fatal accidents last year may be connected to the strains and stresses associated with the pandemic, and an alarming increase in drug and alcohol sales and use. The 2020 research into fatal and disabling injuries among motorists found that two-thirds of drivers had at least one drug in their system at the time of their crash, including alcohol, marijuana, or opioids, according to the NHTSA report.
- Alcohol purchases rose about 20% year-on-year from July to September 2020.
- Legal marijuana sales rose 38% and 45%, respectively.
- As of Dec. 29, 2020, there were a total of 1,016 impaired driving fatalities in Michigan.
- It’s expected that around 50% of all Michigan fatal crashes in 2020 will have involved alcohol or drugs.
The Michigan drunk driving attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., urge drivers to take more care on the roads and to never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Under the law, individuals injured due to a drunk driver are entitled to Michigan no-fault benefits and compensation for their pain and suffering.
Pedestrian Safety Paid the Price for the Pandemic’s Bad Drivers
A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), Spotlight on Highway Safety, shows how the pandemic’s harmful driver consequences have been more deadly for pedestrians as well. Nearly 3,000 pedestrians were killed on U.S. roads during the first six months of the pandemic, according to the GHSA. And 2020 is projected to see the largest ever annual increase in the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate. Similar numbers are likely to be found in Michigan as well.
- In 2019, Michigan recorded 65 pedestrian deaths. That number rose to 68 during the first six months of 2020, a 5% increase from the year before.
- The rate of drivers striking and killing pedestrians jumped to 2.2 deaths per billion miles traveled, a “significant and unsettling increase” from 1.8 deaths in 2019.
- Nearly 86% of pedestrians killed during the first six months of 2020 were between 21 and 24 years of age.
- Pedestrians of color were more likely to be killed than those who identified as white.
Michigan is a no-fault state which means that all parties in a car crash are eligible for benefits from their insurance companies, regardless of who caused the accident. Pedestrians (motorcyclists and bicyclists) are protected under the Michigan no-fault law so long as a motor vehicle is involved in the accident.
Were You Injured in a Michigan Car Accident in 2020?
If you were injured in a car, truck, or pedestrian accident in 2020 or more recently, the Michigan car accident attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. are prepared to help. Our attorneys have been working tirelessly during the pandemic to help individuals like you and have represented auto accident victims, motorcycle accident victims, and trucking accident victims for over 40 years. Please call to speak to an experienced Michigan accident attorney at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) as soon as you are ready. And remember, you pay nothing until we settle your case.
Source: Office of Behavioral Safety Research. (2021, January). Update to special reports on traffic safety During the COVID-19 public health emergency: Third quarter data. (Report No. DOT HS 813 069). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.