The number of people killed after being involved in a car crash while not wearing their seat belt soared by twenty per cent last year, even though the roads were much quieter because of COVID.
A recently released National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report recorded that there were 6,052 deaths caused by ejections in 2020 but just 5,059 in 2019, an increase of twenty per cent, and there were 18,685 deaths not caused by ejections in 2020 but 19,289 in 2019, an increase of only three per cent.
It also noted that there were 11,883 deaths of people not wearing seatbelts in 2020 but only 10,369 in 2019, an increase of 15 per cent. The number of deaths amongst people wearing seatbelts went down three per cent from 11,844 deaths in 2019 to 11,512 in 2020.
The federal agency noted that the percentage of unrestrained passengers deaths increased from March, when lockdown measures went into effect, through December. The biggest spike occurred in April when unbelted passengers made up 55 per cent of traffic mortality, opposed to just 45 per cent in 2019.
The report also drilled into other measurements of traffic deaths in 2020, including that fatal accidents rose by eleven per cent at night, and fatal accidents involving speeding were up to eleven per cent and police-reported collisions involving alcohol were up nine per cent.
Fatal accidents among younger age groups were all up at least 14 per cent while fatal accidents amongst people 65 and older were down nine per cent, perhaps a factor of the pandemic as many amongst the elderly was restricted to their homes.
In perhaps another effect of the pandemic, the federal agency noted that there was an increase in the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled on rural roads and urban roads, especially last April as people escaped cities.
Last month, the Governors Highway Safety Association also released a report detailing pedestrian-related deaths during 2020, which it said was the largest yearly increase since it began collecting the data decades ago.
The association reported that pedestrian mortality in 2020 rose by 21 per cent from 2019, noting that another factor was the rising shift in US vehicle sales away from passenger vehicles to light trucks.
Data from the Federal Highway Administration notes that travel on all roads and streets in the country fell for each month of 2020 at least 8.6 per cent compared to 2019.
The biggest traffic reductions were last April when road traffic dropped 39.8 per cent and May when it fell 25.5 per cent. The data shows traffic was beginning to return as lockdown measures were lifted, with traffic rising 19 per cent from last March, the onset of the pandemic.
Maybe they should make vehicles that don’t go past 45 mph, then deaths from vehicular accidents will shoot down, and then at least people won’t be able to shriek and complain that they can’t go 100 mph in a school zone.
And it appears that just like everything else, common sense has gone out of the window – pardon the pun because if you don’t wear a seatbelt and you do have an accident, that’s precisely what would happen.
A seat belt might leave you with a painful shoulder or even a broken shoulder if you were in a crash with another vehicle, but at least a person or persons could deal with that, rather than going through the windscreen like superman!
Statistics show conclusively that seat belts save lives, and education is the key to demonstrate the real advantages of seat belts – rules are there for a reason, but people do flout them at their own peril.
The problem is people get complacent, given all the safety features on today’s vehicles, and they seem to believe that all these features negate having to wear a seat belt but they don’t, and it doesn’t matter how many airbags, crash assist, anti-lock brakes or auto drive a vehicle has, a seat belt is the most important thing to keep a person protected.