Past Max Dorfman, research writer, Triple-I
After years of steady declines, the number of road deaths in the United States is increasing, which is helping to raise car insurance prices. This is despite reductions in the average number of miles driven due to the pandemic. In 2020, 38,680 deaths occurred on American roads, the most since 2007.
In late January, federal transportation officials released a plan to reduce the tens of thousands of traffic deaths that occur each year, an issue that has become more significant since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can and should not accept these fatalities as just a part of everyday life in America,”; said Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg. “No one will be able to do this alone. It will take all levels of government, industry, advocates, engineers and communities across the country to work together towards the day when family members no longer have to say goodbye to loved ones due to a traffic accident. ”
The impact of the pandemic
Road safety in the United States had increased in the decades before the pandemic, mainly due to the enforcement of seat belt laws and vehicle safety features, such as airbags, improved braking and stability control. Nevertheless, the first year of the pandemic saw an increase of 7.2 percent in road deaths in the United States from 2019. Some experts saw this increase in reckless driving partly due to the isolation associated with the pandemic peak.
“You’re locked up, locked up and have restrictions you’ve rubbing,” says Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia.
During the first months of the covid pandemic, insurance companies offered discounts on personal car insurance, spurred on reductions in mileage and the expectation of fewer accidents. But it quickly became clear that reduced mileage did not automatically lead to fewer fatal accidents. Instead, reckless driving – and deaths – increased.
The end of pandemic shutdowns has not helped either, with the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimating that 31,720 people died in motor vehicle accidents during the first nine months of 2021, an increase of about 12 percent from 28,325 deaths for the first nine months of 2020. During the first quarter of 2020, traffic fatalities were 1.12 per 100 million kilometers driven. By the end of the third quarter of 2021, this figure had increased to 1.41 per 100 million miles driven.
What can be done?
The federal infrastructure deal promises to spend more on new security measures, with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities. With this in mind, the Ministry of Transport implements an approach to a safe system, provided that fatal accidents can be avoided if individuals understand the need for safe driving and accept that accidents can be avoided. The goal is zero deaths in traffic.
The safety method, which has been adopted in several countries in Europe, has in fact seen remarkably positive results. Traffic fatalities decreased by 50 percent in Sweden and the Netherlands between 1994 and 2015.
“There are communities that have come into being [zero traffic fatalities] already, ”Buttigieg added. “And I’m not just talking about Oslo,” which experienced the deaths of zero pedestrians in 2019, “but a place that Hoboken, NJ, in the United States has seen for several years with zero deaths.”
Car insurance premiums are affected by many factors, and trends with accidents and deaths are important. Reckless driving trends – combined with rising car repair costs associated with safety, efficiency and comfort – can only continue to push prices up. Individual behavior and government policies must coincide in the direction of improving responsibility and safety for all drivers.