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Triple-I Blog | Will PandemicDriving Trends PersistAfter COVID-19 Passes?

More people died in New York City automobile accidents in 2020 than in 2019, despite greatly reduced driving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic slowdown. The local trend is consistent with broader ones recently referenced by Triple-I senior vice president and chief actuary James Lynch.

As of this morning’s reporting on WNYC, 227 people had died in car-related accidents this year in New York City, compared with 203 by this time last year. This increase appears to be due to more speeding and reckless driving, as documented by a doubling of speeding tickets in 2020, from more than 2 million to 4 million.

Similar trends are reported in other states. In Minnesota, 372 fatal accidents have been reported, compared with 346 this time last year.  Wisconsin reported a 7.4 percent increase in auto fatalities.

During the first six months of 2020, Colorado’s traffic deaths rose just by just 1 percent from the same period in 2019 – but the fatality rate per vehicle mile traveled rose by 20 percent.

Nationally, Triple-I’s Lynch said, “mileage driven this year is down 12 percent, but traffic fatalities are up 4 percent. The concern is that frequency patterns will return to the norm, but fast driving will keep claim severity high, putting upward pressure on rates.”

WNYC’s Steven Nessen reported some good news with respect to pedestrian deaths in New York, which are down to 93 from 108 this time last year. 

“If the city can keep it up, this may end up being the safest year for pedestrian deaths since Mayor DeBlasio took office,” Nessen said.

Nessen also noted that deaths of bicyclists in New York City were little changed in 2020 – notable because bicycle use has increased dramatically this year – and that reckless drivers “seem mostly to be killing themselves by hitting medians or trees.”

“Where we see a big jump in numbers is in motorcycle deaths,” he continued. “Those numbers nearly doubled this year, to forty-seven.”

This isn’t surprising, given that motorcycle fatalities – per vehicle miles traveled – occur nearly 27 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in crashes.

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