Data show deaths in car crashes rose statewide last year, even as people drove less due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Safety Council says deaths from motor vehicles rose 8% last year, with as many as 42,060 people dying in vehicle crashes.
When comparing traffic deaths to the number of miles driven, the rate of fatalities rose 24% — the highest spike in nearly a century, NSC says.
“It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” Lorraine Martin, NSC’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
In the state of Virginia, crash fatalities increased by 2% from 827 in 2019 to 847 in 2020, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, citing data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
“Because there was less traffic on the roadways that seemed to, for whatever reason, encourage folks to think that they could drive faster, because there was less congestion on the highways,” John Saunders, Virginia Highway Safety Office Director for the Department of Motor Vehicles, told the newspaper. “And when you get increased speeds, even though you may have fewer crashes the crashes you do have are much more severe crashes because of the increase in speed.”
With the July Fourth weekend expected to be busy with travelers, Virginia State Police increased patrolling through Monday at midnight.
The Virginia Department of Transportation was also halting highway lane closures and many highway work zones on major roads and interstates until Tuesday to help alleviate traffic.