While the pandemic has directly caused the deaths of millions of people worldwide, indirect deaths also account for a shocking number of COVID-19-related fatalities. Social isolation and barriers to health care treatment are two leading causes of death linked to the pandemic. Could other fatal side effects include reckless driving and resulting auto accidents involving pedestrians?

Indirect Effects of the Pandemic Generally

COVID-19 has affected so many aspects of how we live and work. According to a recent report in the American Journal of Public Health, indirect effects of the pandemic accounted for 16 percent of pandemic-related deaths in 2020. Of the additional deaths in 2020, approximately 84 percent were directly attributed to COVID-19, while indirect effects caused the remaining 16 percent. From suicide and drug overdose to untreated diabetes complications, researchers are just beginning to see the pandemic’s full impact on our health and safety.

An Unprecedented Increase in Pedestrian Deaths

Pedestrian deaths surged in many U.S. states in 2020, and two years after lockdown, these fatalities remain at record numbers. An increase in reckless driving seems to be a significant contributing factor. Although the reason for this surge is not completely known, officials of several states cite pandemic-related anxiety and excessive drinking as two primary culprits.

The uptick in reckless driving and pedestrian deaths has disproportionately affected certain states, but the trend is seen across much of the country. Last year was Utah’s deadliest of the century, and more pedestrians were killed in New Jersey than in any of the previous 30 years. In Texas, pedestrian deaths reached a record high.

At first glance, the spike in pedestrian deaths seems almost counterintuitive. Millions of people have traded in their daily commutes for remote work, and social distancing measures have kept many folks closer to home. But it seems that less-congested roadways and a temporary drop in traffic enforcement have created a kind of Wild West of the American roadway system. That, and the increase in anxiety and alcohol abuse during the pandemic, seem to have created the perfect storm for a rise in pedestrian and other traffic-related deaths.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s recent report, Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2020 Preliminary Data, more than 6,700 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2020 — a shocking 21 percent increase from the previous year. This also happens to be the largest single-year increase on record.

But the pandemic isn’t the only reason for an increase in pedestrian deaths, which have been on the rise for the last decade. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), larger vehicle sizes are also to blame. IIHS data reveals that pedestrians have a much greater risk of being hit by SUVs and trucks than their smaller counterparts. And the risk of death in pedestrian accidents involving larger vehicles is higher.

It’s Not Only Pedestrian Deaths

Even though people drove much less in 2020, pedestrian deaths had a greater year-over-year increase than any other time in history, and the 2021 increase looks to be even greater. But not only fatal pedestrian crashes are on the rise; overall traffic fatalities are following suit, including trucking accidents and motorcycle crashes. According to the NHTSA, in the first three quarters of 2021, fatal vehicle crashes increased by 12 percent from the first three quarters of the previous year.

To dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death in a pedestrian or other traffic-related accident, do not engage in distracted driving or walking, wear reflective clothing if walking at night, and always use extreme caution at intersections.

If you or a loved one was injured due to the negligent or reckless actions of a driver, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. At Sommers Schwartz, our team of highly-skilled injury lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

Richard L. Groffsky

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Richard L. Groffsky

Richard Groffsky focuses his practice on medical malpractice and personal injury litigation, and has represented victims of devastating brain injuries and birth injuries in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina, and Georgia in significant brain injury and birth injury cases.