Many assumptions existed in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when stay-at-home orders were issued. Instead of getting in a car and driving to a job, people worked remotely. Instead of going to a theater, families gathered around TVs and watched the latest movie from the comfort of their dwellings.
Fewer vehicles should have meant fewer deaths, particularly to pedestrians. Sadly, data studied over the previous year paints an entirely different picture.
The need for speed turns tragic
Cars on the road decided to use the reduced traffic levels to drive fast and recklessly, putting anyone close to that vehicle at risk of a serious injury. Instead of hunkering down, drivers were heading out in their cars, with far too many operating them at excessive speeds.
The combination of lower traffic levels, reduced travel plans for families, and increased telecommuting had the exact opposite effect. Instead of being safer, pedestrians were at risk of injuries and death.
The Governors Highway Safety Association reported pedestrian deaths increased in 2020 by 21 percent compared to the previous year, even when factoring in the smaller volume of motor vehicles. It represents the most significant annual increase since data collection started in the mid-1970s. The final data has yet to be calculated and is based on projections from preliminary reports.
Apparently, the open road gave drivers a sense of freedom as they put the pedal to the metal, resulting in pedestrian fatalities on far too many occasions. Busy streets with many popular businesses saw the most fatalities, with many walkers crossing the street. Some never made it to the other side.
When factoring in distracting technology that leads to multiple collisions, many are surprised that the number was not higher regardless of the environment.