Life as we knew it radically changed once COVID-19 became a global pandemic. Social distancing, school closures, lockdowns, and business shutdowns changed peoples’ behaviors in major ways. In March 2020, states began implementing measures to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, namely stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders designed to reduce human to human contact and transmission of the virus. In most states, only “essential businesses” could remain open, and the results were drastic: most of the residents of any given city remained at home on a day-to-day basis. Despite roads being much less crowded, the National Safety Council reported that in March 2020, the motor vehicle accident fatality rate actually increased by 14%.
From January-March 2020, some Southern states have seen among the biggest increases in deadly car accidents: Arkansas (+16%), Tennessee (+6%), and Louisiana (+23%). These figures come even as the total number of vehicle miles driven across the United States in March 2020 decreased 18.6% compared to March 2019. Why are fatal accident rates going up even when most Americans were sheltering at home?
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating a 63% increase in deadly car crashes in Shelby County in the first 5 months of 2020, as compared to the same period of 2019. From January 1 – May 26, 2020, THP has reported at least 80 traffic fatalities in Shelby County, but in the same period in 2019, there were 49 lives lost in car wrecks.