We know that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on health and mental well-being, but a potential outcome that has started to garner attention is an increase in car accidents. Road safety is a significant factor in determining the overall safest U.S. states. As of 2019 and before the effects of COVID-19 came into play, one of the leading causes of death in the United States is car accidents, and no state is exempt from this. However, the country has seen a constant increase in car accidents throughout the pandemic, specifically fatal accidents.
Reckless Driving and the “Arousal Breakout”
Even as Americans drove less due to the pandemic, in 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 38,680 people were killed on U.S. roadways. This is the highest number recorded since 2007 and came when Americans drove 13% fewer miles than in 2019. According to the NHTSA’s data, the primary behaviors that caused the increase included impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
This trend continued into 2021. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released an early estimate traffic fatality report for the first half of 2021. An estimated 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes, an 18 percent increase from the first half of 2020, and miles traveled increased by 11.7% from 2020.
The “Arousal Breakout”
The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a profound effect on our mental health. The constant worry and stress of the situation can be overwhelming, and many people struggle to cope. The concept of the arousal breakout suggests that the pandemic has made U.S. drivers more likely to participate in reckless driving. This includes speeding, drinking, using drugs, and leaving seat belts unbuckled.
In an article from reporters Emily Baumgartner and Russ Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times that dug into reasons for this increase in road fatalities during the pandemic and 2021, Frank Farley, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, says, “Covid-19 marks ‘a sea change in psychology.’ He views reckless driving as a form of rebellion — or what he calls ‘arousal breakout … You’ve been cooped up, locked down, and have restrictions you chafe at,’ he said. ‘So, if you can have an arousal breakout, you want to take it.’”
A researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Shannon Frattaroli, also tells the reporters, “Experts say that behavior on the road is likely a reflection of widespread feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. ‘We might decide: What does a seatbelt or another beer matter, anyway, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic?’
Finally, the article also suggests that the rise in motor vehicle deaths lines up with other pandemic-era trends: Alcohol sales have soared, drug overdoses have set new records, and homicides have seen their biggest increase on record.
The Pandemic Effects on Florida Car Accidents
Florida is the third-worst state in the US for motor vehicle fatalities. Drivers in the state retain more than 1,000 car accidents every day, auto accidents kill nearly 3,000 people, and over 165,000 victims sustain injuries.
In 2019, before the pandemic and COVID-19 constraints, over 400,000 crashes occurred in Florida, with 3,185 fatalities. As restrictions increased across the country and fewer motorists were on the road, crashes in Florida decreased to just over 340,000, but deaths continued to grow to 3,332.
As the US began to lift restrictions in 2021 and motorists returned to their daily travel routines, crashes increased to pre-pandemic levels at just over 400,000 accidents occurring. However, deaths continued to grow, reaching just over 3,700. Hillsborough County saw over 28,000 accidents alone and accounted for 271 fatalities.
How to Avoid Car Accidents
With the number of car accidents on the rise due to COVID-19, it’s important to be aware of how to stay safe while driving. Here are a few tips:
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to reach out for help. Talk to a friend or family member, or seek professional help if needed.
- Drive carefully. Take your time and be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep an eye out for others who may not be driving safely. If you see someone driving erratically, stay away and call the police.
- Always obey the rules of the road. This includes following speed limits, using turn signals, and not driving while distracted.
- Make sure your car is in good condition and that you are familiar with how it operates. This includes knowing how to use the brakes, the gas pedal, and the turn signals.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Florida
As we return to pre-pandemic activity and more drivers are on the road, the risk of car accidents increases. If you’ve been in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, contact a car accident lawyer today. At The Fran Haasch Law Group, we are committed to fighting for your fair recovery. We strive to help injured individuals and the loved ones of those wrongfully killed secure the full, fair recovery they are owed. We offer dedicated legal representation for car accident victims and victims of bicycle, rideshare, and semi-truck accidents.
If you feel you have been the victim of a car accident through no fault of your own. Our attorneys are prepared to help you navigate the legal process and work toward securing the maximum compensation you are owed. Call (727) 784-8191 or contact us online to get started on receiving maximum compensation for your personal injury case.