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Despite COVID-19 lockdowns, American roads are getting much deadlier

Enlarge / The three months between July and September 2020 saw a massive rise in road deaths in the United States. (credit: Getty Images)

American roads became significantly deadlier in 2020, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although figures for the entire year won’t be available for some time, the NHTSA has calculated the death toll on our roads for the first nine months of 2020, and the news is grim. 28,190 people were killed in crashes between the beginning of January and the end of September last year, which is an increase of 4.6%—or 1,249 more deaths—over the same nine months in 2019. (The full statistics for 2020 won’t be available until later this year.)

What makes this increase even worse news is the fact that 2019 actually saw a decrease in road deaths, which declined by two percent compared to 2018. In fact, when the NHTSA released the 2019 statistics in late December of last year, it included a preliminary analysis of the first half of 2020 and found that during those six months, the traffic volume decreased by 16 percent and road deaths declined by 3.3 percent over the same time period.

(As the decrease in vehicle miles travelled was greater than the decrease in deaths, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled actually increased from 1.06 to 1.25 when comparing 1H 2019 and 1H 2020).

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