According to a news article posted on nytimes.com, deadly traffic accidents have been rising to record levels since the start of the COVID pandemic. Traffic safety authorities blame larger vehicles, drivers’ anxiety levels, and fraying social norms are the cause of the increase. One of the most significant increases in traffic-related deaths is pedestrian collisions involving red light runners. In cities like Albuquerque and New York City, pedestrian deaths have been surging since 2020.
To stop the rising number of traffic fatalities, state law enforcement agencies are blaming “the rise in anxiety levels and pandemic drinking and the fraying of social norms.”
New Jersey reached its record number of pedestrian fatalities in over 30 years in 2021. Utah also saw its number of pedestrian deaths rise by 22 percent. The number of pedestrian deaths in Texas soared to a record number last year.
Some traffic specialists had hoped the number of pedestrian deaths would fall during and after the pandemic. However, reduced traffic and social distancing had no impact on fatal pedestrian crashes. In fact, the number of deadly pedestrian collisions rose because some drivers engaged in speeding due to some police chiefs reduced law enforcement traffic stops because of face-to-face communication. Psychologists believe the problem will get worse due to drivers becoming angrier.
Dr. David Spiegel, with Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, stated that several drivers are dealing with “salience saturation.” According to Dr. Spiegel, people are saturated with fears about the virus and what to do. Dr. Spiegel also blames “social disengagement” for an increase in anger. These issues with a loss in capacity to gauge risks cause people to not pay attention to safe driving.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, motor vehicle collisions killed over 6,700 pedestrians in 2020. This is up from 6,412 deaths the year before.
The Governors Highway Safety Association states that the COVID pandemic has amplified several trends that have pushed the United States in the direction of more pedestrian deaths. Accidents killing pedestrians increased 46 percent over the last ten years, compared to a five percent increase for all other collisions.
Angie Schmitt, an author who describes pedestrian deaths as a “silent epidemic,” blames the aging population and an increase in larger vehicles for the increase in fatal pedestrian collisions. According to Schmitt, three out of four new motor vehicles sold are vans, pickup trucks, vans, or SUVs.
Other experts warn that features such as rearview cameras and lane-departure warnings have emboldened drivers to not look out for pedestrians. Street racing is one more dangerous issue that is being blamed for the spike in fatal traffic accidents.
Throughout the United States, traffic fatalities are rising at a record pace. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 32,000 people were tragically killed in motor vehicle accidents from January 2021 through September 2021. This was a twelve percent increase from the same time period in 2020 and the highest percentage increase in the reporting system’s history.
In addition to speeding and aggressive driving, there has also been an increase in drunken driving and homeless people, which helps to explain the rise in pedestrian deaths.
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