Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19 on Road Safety

COVID-19 continues to negatively impact road safety in 2022. The risky driving patterns and behaviors, including speeding, failure to wear seatbelts and driving while impaired, that were exhibited during the early months of the pandemic continue. The risky behavior coupled with the fact that traffic has increased almost to pre-pandemic levels with the return to work and school, reluctance of some to use public transport and carpools, and the large number of delivery vehicles on the roads has resulted in an even higher number of injuries and fatalities. According to the National Safety Council, the number of deaths for February 2022 is up 14% compared to 2021 and 11% compared to 2020. The issue is further compounded by the significant increase in pedestrians and bicyclists on the roads that began during the pandemic. It has become clearer than ever before that roads do not belong to vehicles alone but rather are shared spaces for cars, pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and other modes of transportation.

In the early months of the pandemic, lockdowns resulted in fewer cars on the road, and many drivers increased their speed significantly. And while there were fewer vehicles on the road, this did not lead to a prolonged period of reductions in deaths and, in some countries, no reductions in deaths at all. In fact, the crashes that occurred were often more severe as speed is a huge determinant of serious injury and mortality. A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that “During the height of the national public health emergency and associated lockdowns, driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly, and drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seatbelts, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”

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