Has COVID-19 Changed the Way We Drive?
Since March 2020, there have been a lot of changes in the world. COVID-19 has shifted the way we handle situations, our physical and mental health, how we interact with others, and even our driving. While a lot of travel decreased around the U.S. in 2020, traffic fatalities actually increased. So, with fewer cars on the roads, how is this happening?
Patterns in Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recorded over 38,000 vehicular deaths in 2020, the most since 2007. Risky behavior and reckless driving, caused by mental health issues resulting from the pandemic, contributed to those fatalities. Feelings of isolation, depression, and despair can lead to people expressing their emotions on the road in the following ways:
- Ignoring Traffic Symbols
- Road Rage
- Driving Under the Influence
How Were Pedestrians Impacted?
With COVID-19 came lockdowns, quarantine, and the urge to change surroundings. According to the Outdoor Foundation, around 52.9% more people participated in outdoor activities in 2020 compared to 2019. Unfortunately, the increase in people being active outside and a surge in reckless drivers made for a deadly combination. In the United States, the pedestrian fatality rate rose by 21% in 2020.
Are New Drivers Part of the Problem?
Approximately 3 million new drivers hit the road in 2020. Teens make more mistakes while driving and are 10 times more likely to cause an accident within the first year of having a license. With COVID-19, fewer people were on roadways allowing these new drivers to learn at a more manageable pace. As people began returning to the road, a study on 1000 parents showed that 75% of them believe their teen is now a more defensive driver.
What Needs to Change?
While changing behavior patterns can be difficult, here are tips to help avoid accidents while driving:
- Forgive: Mistakes happen; avoid doing anything irrational that could cause an accident.
- Follow traffic laws: People who speed, run traffic lights, stop signs, aren’t using turn signals, etc., are ones that cause serious accidents. Leave early enough to avoid the need to rush. While drivers make mistakes, so do pedestrians.
- Avoid confrontation: If someone expresses road rage, do not act, or you could be at risk of a dangerous situation.
- Find a calming strategy: If you get angry quickly, listen to music or an audiobook to relax your nerves.