Countless news stories described reckless driving during the pandemic. A record number of drivers were cited for traveling 100 mph or faster during this time period, and others were noted to be logged onto Zoom meetings while driving.
These and other reckless driving habits meant that, while the number of drivers on the roadway decreased significantly in 2020, 38,680 people were still killed in motor vehicle collisions last year. This is a 7.2% rise in road fatalities over 2019, with increases in urban, suburban and rural areas and the most traffic-related deaths since 2007.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that the number of traffic-related fatalities increased for all racial groups in 2020, but went up the most for Black Americans — a 23% jump.
Reasons for the increase
In an interview, a University of Connecticut environmental engineering professor, Norman Garrick, explained the increase this way:
“Black people tend to be overrepresented as walkers in this country. This is not by choice. In many cases, Black folks cannot afford motor vehicles. And people that walk in this country tend to experience a much, much higher rate of traffic fatalit(ies). We’re talking eight to 10 times more. It’s a perfect storm of a lot of horrible forces.”
Other contributing factors
Before 2020, Black pedestrians were 82% more likely to be struck by a driver than white pedestrians. Aside from reckless driving during the pandemic, other contributing factors include:
- Highways and busy roadways often pass through neighborhoods where higher numbers of Blacks and other minorities live.
- These neighborhoods sometimes lack infrastructure funding, which means less reliable public transport, poor road and streetlight maintenance, and fewer modern safety upgrades like flashing island barriers and crosswalks.
Alarmingly, a study conducted in 2017 at the University of Nevada found that drivers were more likely to stop or slow down for white pedestrians in a crosswalk than they would for Black ones.
What to do if your loved one is killed or injured in a traffic collision
Victims and their families can hold reckless drivers accountable for killing or injuring pedestrians. If the roads were in poor repair or dangerous, the family might pursue a claim against the responsible municipality. An experienced attorney can assist with this type of claim.