Traffic Down 25%, Motor Vehicle Fatalities Down 8% in May During Lockdowns

Preliminary estimates indicate that deaths from motor vehicle accidents fell in May but the death rate per miles driven jumped considerably.

According to the National Safety Council, it was the third month in a row when there were fewer deaths and less traffic on the roads but drivers who were driving were at a higher risk of dying from a motor vehicle crash.

In May when most of the country was deep in quarantine from the pandemic, the fatality rate per miles driven jumped 23.5% compared to the previous year. The number of miles driven in May dropped 25.5% compared to the year prior. The report is based on May data from all 50 states.

While there was an estimated 8% drop in the number of deaths for May compared to the prior year, the mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.47 in May compared to 1.19 in 2019.

For March, NSC reported a similar 8% drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019. There was also a 14% rise in the fatality rate in March as the actual number of miles driven dropped 18.6%. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March compared to 1.07 in March 2019.

Through the first five months of 2020, the following six states experienced notable increases in the number of roadway deaths: New Hampshire (63%), Connecticut (39%), Louisiana (15%), Missouri (12%), Arkansas (10%) and North Carolina (6%).

Nine states with notable decreases were: Tennessee (-58%), Wyoming (-52%), Mississippi (-21%), Maryland (-18%), Michigan (-13%), South Carolina (-13%), Pennsylvania (-13%), Arizona (-10%) and Florida (-4%).

After rising fatality numbers between 2015 and 2017, the country had been experiencing a leveling off and small decline in overall fatalities before the pandemic.

Now that many employers are going back to work and commutes, the NSC is reminding drivers that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace deaths.

“An employer’s reopening strategy is an opportunity to emphasize and reiterate the need for safe streets, as well as safe workplace transportation. Employers can make a real difference in improving safety on our roadways, helping to protect their employees, as well as other road users,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO

Auto insurers have been seeing a reduction in car accident claims and returning premiums to policyholders to reflect that trend.

State Farm gave customers a 25% premium credit on average, while The Travelers gave a 15% credit on their April and May premiums.

Progressive Insurance is paying back a total of about $1 billion to its personal auto customers, via credits or payments of 20% of their monthly premiums, in May and June. For the first quarter 2020, compared to the same period last year, personal auto accident frequency was down 18% for personal auto, and 5% for commercial auto. Although frequency was down year over year, there was an increase in severity for both personal and commercial auto products of 11% and 20%, respectively, during March.

Source: National Safety Council