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Why Are Accident Related Deaths on the Rise When Traffic has Decreased in NC?


The Charlotte Observer is reporting that North Carolina road traffic is down substantially since the Governor’s stay at home order took effect. Highway traffic during the coronavirus pandemic is down 40% to 50% in North Carolina, according to the state Department of Transportation. At the same time, this recent news article is also reporting that fatal accidents are not significantly down as we would expect them to be. Through May 8, there had been 408 fatal vehicle crashes in North Carolina, a figure less than 2% compared to this same time in 2019, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles. In those 408 fatal accidents, 443 people were killed. Through the same time period in 2019, 444 had been killed in fatal accidents.  

One theory about the increase in highway fatalities during the pandemic is that the relatively clear highways are enticing people to drive faster and more recklessly. State officials in Minnesota cite speeding as the main reason behind an uptick in fatal crashes in their state, according to The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, while the State Highway Patrol has issued fewer citations overall, the number of drivers charged with going in excess of 25 mph over the speed limit is up 13%, to 12,538 through May 4, said spokesman Sgt. Christopher Knox. So far this year, the number of fatal crashes in which speeding was a factor is down 4.7%, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles.

While we discuss fatal highway accidents, it would be impossible to discuss these catastrophic accidents without looking at big trucks and their statistics as they relate to the recent significant drop in overall highway traffic. Big/heavy trucks (tractor-trailers, big rigs, etc.) accidents involving fatalities are significantly up compared to the same time period in 2019. There have been 32 so far this year, up 45.5%, resulting in 40 deaths, which is 60% more than last year.  There is no mystery on this though – the number of trucks crossing the state’s weigh stations is up 41% so far this year.  Big trucks carrying essential goods to and through our state do not appear to represent any portion of the overall decline of traffic that we have seen since the Covid-19 stay-at-home order began to take its toll on our roads. 

Other statistics to note: 

  • Fatal crashes involving alcohol are down more than 30% for the year.
  • Those involving drivers age 65 and older are down nearly 16%. 
  • Pedestrian fatalities are down 9%, to 68 for 2020 to date.
  •  Fatal crashes involving cyclists have doubled, to eight statewide.

While we continue to navigate the current unknown path that is Covid-19, we can only hope that drivers will obey the rules of the road and use lighter traffic responsibly. With fewer cars on the road, drivers should realize that they will most likely reach their destinations quicker than they would in Pre-Covid-19 traffic without having to speed.  Please drive safely, follow the rules of the road, and share the road with your fellow drivers. 

Auger & Auger is in its 26th year of representing the interests of seriously injured North and South Carolinians. Our firm is a client-centered personal injury law firm that focuses on serious car, big truck, motorcycle, boat, and golf cart accidents. Anyone injured in an accident seeking assistance can receive a free case evaluation by calling Auger & Auger at 704-364-3361 or participating in a webchat / submitting a contact submission form at  We are happy to see how we can help!

Posted In: Auger & Auger, Car Accidents, Coronavirus Information, Personal Injury

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