Motor Vehicle Fatality Rates Jump 36.6% in April Despite Quarantines

For second straight month, preliminary estimates show emptier but riskier roads.

June 23, 2020

Itasca, IL – Preliminary estimates based on April data from all 50 states indicate that for the second straight month, Americans did not reap any safety benefit from having less roadway traffic. In fact, the roads became even more lethal as miles driven plummeted. Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council show a year-over-year 36.6% jump in fatality rates per miles driven in April, in spite of an 18% drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to April 2019. The actual number of miles driven dropped 40% compared to the same time period last year. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.47 in April compared to 1.08 in 2019.

Through the first four months of 2020, the following states have experienced notable increases in the number of roadway deaths: Arkansas (24%), Connecticut (45%), Illinois (6%), Louisiana (17%), Minnesota (6%), Nevada (7%), North Carolina (7%) and Oklahoma (6%).

States with notable decreases include Arizona (-12%), Colorado (-5%), Hawaii (-34%), Idaho (-36%), Indiana (-16%), Iowa (-16%), Maryland (-14%), Michigan (-17%), New Jersey (-9%), Oregon (-28%), South Carolina (-12%) and Washington (-16%).

For the three-day Independence Day holiday period starting at 6 p.m. ET Thursday, July 2, NSC estimates 405 potential fatalities, with alcohol as an expected primary factor in nearly 40% of the deaths.

“Even without traffic, our roads were no safer,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “It is heartbreaking to see the carnage on our roadways continue, especially when our medical professionals should be able to focus intently on treating a pandemic rather than preventable car crashes. These numbers underscore our urgent need to change the culture of safety on our roads.”

As was the case in March, quarantines and shelter in place directives across the country account for a significant portion of the drop in the number of deaths. However, reports of increased speeding in several states may account for the rising death rates.

To help ensure safer roads, particularly now that many states have reopened and traffic is increasing again, NSC urges motorists to:

  • Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light
  • Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue and drive attentively, avoiding distractions
  • Stay engaged with teen drivers’ habits and practice with them frequently – tips are available at DriveitHOME.org
  • Follow state and local directives and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so; during shelter-in-place and stay-at-home periods, many states ask drivers to stay off the roads except in emergency situations or for essential errands
  • Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic, particularly in urban areas; conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that streets are getting congested again, and vulnerable roadway users need to be careful
  • Organizations and employers are encouraged to join the Road to Zero Coalition, a 1,500-member group committed to eliminating roadway deaths by 2050

The National Safety Council has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates. NSC motor vehicle fatality estimates and supplemental estimate information, including estimates for each state, can be found here.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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