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Health, Science and Environment

Number of fatal car crashes up in 2020

Due to quarantines, public transit shutdowns and stay at home orders, roads saw fewer drivers in 2020. 

Despite that, the number of fatal traffic accidents went up.

  

Federal officials say drivers have been exhibiting dangerous driving behaviors, like driving under the influence, speeding, or driving without a seatbelt more often during the pandemic.

An early estimate says traffic deaths increased 7% from 2019.

Peter Savolainen is an MSU foundation professor who mainly researches traffic safety.

He said drivers were more likely to speed in areas with lower speed limits, which tend to be residential.

“If you think about those lower-speed sites, the general traveller tends to go a bit higher above the speed limit on those 25 and 30 mile per hour sites versus say the 75 mile per hour sites,” Savolainen said.

The changes affected people of color disproportionately, with fatalities of black people increasing by 23 percent and fatalities of indigenous people increasing by 11 percent.

According to Savolainen, researchers aren’t sure if the pattern will continue in 2021, but research on behavior changes during the pandemic may help shed some light on the increases.