Tennesseans weathered 2020 much like the rest of the country. Many worked from home or lost their job because the businesses closed. Kids’ sports were on hold, and they likely were not in the classroom as often years past. These and other reasons meant an estimated 17% fewer miles traveled on the roads nationally.
While the numbers are not final, the initial number of road-related fatalities in the state actually went up 18.5% in the spring of 2020 over the same time in 2019. This is consistent with other states around the country, which reported similar or higher numbers of fatalities despite the lighter traffic.
The estimated national mileage death rate for the first six months of 2020 was 1.37 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which is up 20% from the 2019 rate of 1.14 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Why the higher rate?
The circumstances of each road fatality are different, but some common themes emerged:
- There was an increased use of drugs and alcohol to cope with the challenges of 2020.
- The older and risk-averse were more likely to stay home.
- Drivers who engaged in risky behavior had wide-open roads, prompting a spike in driver ticketed for traveling 100 miles per hour or more.
- Distracted driving remains a stubborn problem.
A greater danger to innocent victims
Many assume that the road fatality statistics reflect those who drove recklessly, but this is not the case. Many crashes involve innocent people running errands in their car, or folks out walking, running or biking to get a break from being stuck at home. Unfortunately, these innocent victims just going about their business ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The injured or their families can still take legal action to hold the negligent drivers accountable.