Truck-Involved Fatalities Fell in 2020

For the year 2020, the comprehensive data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals there was a reduction in highway traffic and miles traveled. The figures for the Vehicle Miles Traveled between 2020 and the previous year decreased by 13.2 percent. However, surprisingly, the highway accident death rate during the lockdown increased compared to that of 2019.

The details of the data reveal that in 2020, the highway accident death rate increased by 7.2 percent— a total number of 38 680 highway accident death cases were reported in 2020 as opposed to 36,096 cases in 2019. In this regard, the agency noted that despite an overall increase in traffic deaths, truck-related deaths decreased by 2 percent between 2019 and 2020. This accounted for only 4,895 cases that were truck involved. Thus, most accident death cases involved passenger cars, motorcyclists, etc.

Statistical estimates from the Federal Highway Administration show that total VMT in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles. Compared to 2019, the fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 cases per 100 million VMT, increasing from 1.11 cases per 100 million VMT.

The data revealed an increase and decrease in the death rate in each quarter of the year. The first, third, and fourth quarters of 2020 accounted for the highway accident death rate increase. The first quarter rose by 1.1 percent. However, both the third and last quarter witnessed the highest rise amounting to a 13.6 percent increase. Throughout 2020, the death rate declined only in the second quarter.

The NHTSA recognizes that the overall increase in highway traffic deaths in 2020 was primarily due to reckless driving patterns among road users. Some of the patterns found amongst drivers were overspeeding, failure to wear a seat belt, and driving while intoxicated.

Accordingly, the agency explains that from the traffic data, the average speeds increased amongst road users during the lockdown. As a result, overspeeding became more prevalent and crash victims were less likely to use seat belts.

Acting administrator Steven Cliff has voiced concerns about these deaths on the roads. He explains that they are unacceptable and emphasizes the role that everybody has to play in ensuring that these roads are safe. Lastly, he expresses the intention of the agency to use all necessary means to decrease traffic death rates in the country.

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