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Experts say pandemic may be linked to surge in traffic deaths

Freeways in Oakland, as in much of California, saw much lighter traffic — and fewer fatal traffic collisions — in the early weeks of the pandemic's stay-at-home rules.
Jane Tyska
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Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images
Freeways in Oakland, as in much of California, saw much lighter traffic — and fewer fatal traffic collisions — in the early weeks of the pandemic's stay-at-home rules.

An increase in traffic deaths has people wondering how the surge can occur during a pandemic. One national report says there has been an almost 20 percent increase in vehicle deaths since the summer of 2019. Nolan Katerberg, manager for the Ford Driving Skills for Life program, says a number of deaths can be attributed to drivers ignoring the basics.

“Unfortunately, people are traveling at higher risk of speeds, and that's definitely an issue,” he said, “there are also a lot of issues around impaired driving, and things as simple as not wearing their seatbelts.”

Katerberg believes the pandemic may play a factor in the increased number of fatal traffic accidents. He says people who stayed home during the pandemic may find that their reactions have changed behind the wheel.

“I myself thought ‘Hey, great, we will see numbers come down because we are driving less’,” he said, “and it was the opposite. The numbers are going up, with more deaths on the road and it's dangerous.”

Katerberg says the keys to safe driving are remembering the fundamentals and remaining alert.