Less traffic, more tragedy: 2020 had most car deaths in more than a decade

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LANSING, MICH. (WLNS) — If one thing was for certain in 2020, the global pandemic shut down travel, and in general fewer people were in the car, as their daily commute to the office became a walk to the living room.

Despite fewer people driving on roads across the country, the number of those killed in traffic crashes, rose significantly, making the biggest year-to-year jump since 2007. According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 38,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes between January 1st and December 31st.

In Michigan, the statistics weren’t any different, with Michigan State Police reporting a total of 1,083 motor vehicle deaths, a 10% increase from the previous year.

Experts tell 6 News even for people who study traffic crashes those numbers were jarring, and they didn’t expect to see the correlation of fewer people driving, and more people dying.

The question many had right away was, how could this happen? The answer, riskier behavior.

According to Adrienne Woodland, a spokesperson for AAA in Michigan, those who were still frequenting the roadways, weren’t doing so cautiously.

“Throughout the national public health emergency and associated lockdowns driving patterns and behavior changed significantly,” said Woodland. “Drivers that remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior.”

Woodland said that behavior also included not wearing seatbelts, and she believes those police agencies patrolling the highways, need to get strict with enforcement.

“Highway safety officials need to double down on curving speeding, substance-impaired driving, and failure to buckle up.”

You can view the full National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report by clicking here.

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