Despite a significant decline in the number of average miles driven on American roads during the pandemic, the number of car accident fatalities exploded. While multiple studies found that most fatal car accidents during the pandemic were caused by reckless behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving or drugged driving, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tried, in a new study to find out the underlying mechanisms leading to this increase in dangerous driving.
In 2020, the foundation collected data from 2,888 drivers who had been driving between October 23rd 2020 and November 23rd 2020. Drivers were asked if they reduced, increased or did not change their driving habits because of the pandemic. Participants were also asked if over the 30 days under study they had engaged in risky behavior such as talking on a cellphone, texting, emailing, speeding on highways, speeding on residential streets, running red lights, switching lanes aggressively, drowsy driving, driving without a seatbelt, driving after drinking alcohol, driving after using marijuana.
The study found that drivers who reduced the most their driving habits were 50 year old female drivers and the ones who increased the most their driving habits were males 39 year old and younger. 50 year+ females were also the category of drivers that were taking the less risks on the road while 39- males were the category taking the most risks on the road.
Therefore the study suggests that with most safe drivers driving less and most unsafe drivers driving more, a shift occurred in the composition of the road users that made the streets of the US more dangerous and lead to more fatal accidents.
The study also questions if drivers who increased their travel during the pandemic despite the health risks were also more likely to take risks when driving, if the perception of risk were reduced because less people were on the road or if stress, anxiety and depression caused by the Covid19 situation lead drivers to take more risks on the road.
Read the study brief here