The U.S. experienced an estimated 20% jump in motor vehicle deaths between January and June 2020 compared to the same six-month period in 2019, according to data from the National Safety Council (NSC).
The rate increase comes in spite of a 17% drop in the number of miles driven between January and June, following the COVID-19 pandemic. The estimated 20% increase in the death rate is the highest jump NSC has calculated for a six-month period since 1999, according to NSC.
In June – when many states ended three straight months of quarantine – the number of miles driven remained 13% lower than the previous year, but death rates and number of deaths both skyrocketed.
The number of deaths was up 17% in June, while the rate of death per 100 million miles driven jumped to 34.4%. June marked the first month since the pandemic that both the number of fatalities and the death rate increased in a single month.
The riskier roads threaten to reverse traffic safety gains made over the last few years. After three straight years of rising fatality numbers between 2015 and 2017, the country had been experiencing a leveling off and small decline in overall fatalities.
Through the first six months of 2020, the following seven states experienced notable increases:
- Vermont (91%, 10 more deaths)
- Connecticut (44%, 45 more deaths)
- District of Columbia (42%, 5 more deaths)
- South Dakota (34%, 11 more deaths)
- Rhode Island (31%, 8 more deaths)
- Arkansas (21%, 51 more deaths)
- Missouri (18%, 68 more deaths)
The NSC 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 that 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.