‘Risky’ driving

There was no change in fatal crash stats for large trucks, but NHTSA says dangerous driving increased during shutdown.

November 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal no significant change in fatality crashes involving large trucks from 2018 to 2019.

Actually, fatality crashes involving at least one large truck went from 5,006 in 2018 to 5,005 in 2019. Large trucks include commercial and noncommercial trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating more than 10,000 pounds.

Overall, traffic deaths decreased by 2%. There were 36,835 traffic deaths reported in 2018 compared to 36,096 in 2019.

NHTSA also released preliminary fatality estimates for the first half of 2020. The preliminary stats indicate that 8,870 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the second quarter of 2020, which was a 3.3% decrease compared to the second quarter of 2019. Of course, it should be noted that the second quarter was during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, when stay-at-home orders were in effect all over the nation. The total traffic volume decreased by more than 16% during the first six months of 2020.

Risky behavior

The study suggests that during the height of the national public health emergency driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly. According to NHTSA, drivers engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Average speeds increased during the second quarter, and extreme speeding became more common, the data showed.

“Road safety is always our top priority, and, while we are encouraged by today’s reports showing a continued decline in total fatalities in 2019 and into the first half of 2020, we are concerned by the trend in April showing an increased fatality rate,” said James Owens, NHTSA’s deputy administrator.

NHTSA said the number of drivers testing positive for opioids nearly doubled after mid-March, while drivers testing positive for marijuana increased by about 50%. LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.