WASHINGTON, D.C – While the COVID-19 pandemic had everyone hunkered down and spending less time driving in 2020, crash deaths rose last year. Motorcycle fatalities spiked nine percent, according to preliminary data released late last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Motorcycle fatalities totaled 5,458, up from 5,015 in 2019, suggesting perhaps that riders used motorcycling as an escape.
After three years of decreased deaths, total fatalities in 2020 were up 7.2 percent to an estimated 38,680. That was the highest number since 2007. Passenger vehicle deaths totaled 23,395, an increase of only five percent.
Deaths among bicyclists were up five percent, while pedestrian deaths were flat in 2020.
Deaths increased in most age groups, except for the older persons where 65+ fatalities declined about nine percent.
Vehicle Miles Decreased In 2020
The vehicle miles traveled during 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, a drop of roughly 13.2 percent. The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from 1.11 fatalities in 2019. Driving the increase were impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.
The lack of a restraint played a large role in death rate as fatalities linked to “occupant ejection” rose 20 percent and deaths of “unrestrained occupants” were up 15 percent. Deaths of people not wearing seat belts totaled 11,883 in 2020, compared to 10,369 in 2019.
Deaths among people wearing seat belts decreased three percent from 11,844 in 2019 to 11,512 in 2020.
Deaths Rose Most In Northeast
The area of the country with the highest increase in deaths, what the NHTSA labeled as “Region 2,” consisted of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Deaths in those four states rose 10 percent. Deaths in the remainder of the New England states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) rose nine percent.
The area with the lowest increase in deaths was Region 10, which includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
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