“The United States has endured a large surge in traffic collisions and fatalities since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world,” announced the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in an article published on February 1, 2022, in the United States Department of Transportation website. Specifically, the article noted that approximately 31,720 individuals died from motor vehicle crashes from January through September of 2021. This represents a double-digit (12%) increase in traffic fatalities when compared to 2020. Furthermore, the projection is the highest number in fifteen (15) years. In response to this crisis of motor vehicle-related deaths, the U.S.D.O.T has instituted a “National Roadway Safety Strategy.”
In short, the “National Roadway Safety Strategy” attempts to address and improve five (5) vital areas related to car crashes and safety on our streets and highways. The five identified by the program are: 1) safer roads; 2) safer people; 3) safer vehicles; 4) safer speeds; and, 5) better post-crash care. The project will finally have funding to implement many of the important objectives due to the bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
In our home state of South Carolina, the statistics are even more sobering. South Carolina has the highest rate of fatalities in the United States of America. Furthermore, South Carolina recorded two record years for deaths on highways, with 2021 outpacing 2020 by almost 12%. Further, South Carolina ranks dead last or near the very bottom of the rankings for deaths per one million miles traveled. NHSTA stated, “There were marked increases in fatalities and the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in 2020. This increased trend in fatalities has continued into the first 9 months of 2021”.[i]
Perhaps the biggest question is why did traffic crashes and motor vehicle fatalities increase during and after the pandemic? Common sense would dictate that traffic deaths would decrease, considering the various government lockdowns and work-from-home arrangements that existed throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Some government officials and attorneys have speculated that the mental stress and fatigue brought about by the pandemic is a primary cause of the traffic crashes. Others point to the rise of DUI cases and increased rates of regression into alcoholism and addiction as contributing factors that could be driving the increase in car crashes we see here in South Carolina.
“The number of per-capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5% from the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2021,” the New York Times reported. That marks the largest two-year increase since World War II, according to the newspaper. “There’s a portion of the population that is incredibly frustrated, enraged, and some of that behavior shows up in their driving.” As Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington, was quoted by the New York Times: “We, in our vehicles, are given anonymity in this giant metal box around us, and we act out in ways that we wouldn’t face to face.”
These concerning statistics highlight the need for community outreach and education regarding highway safety. Our mission at Pracht Injury Lawyers is to use our legal system to provide post-crash service and care for our clients and the community at large. Further, Pracht Injury Lawyers is dedicated to accountability for reckless and careless behavior on the roadways of South Carolina. There are more car wreck fatalities than murders every year. Additionally, South Carolina has the highest death rate per 100 million miles in the United States of America. Unless and until there is real accountability in our court system for the car crash victims it is highly unlikely that we will see a decrease in the carnage on our roadways. Change must come from the community.