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Having less people on the road did not make driving any safer during the first six months of 2020. The number of traffic fatalities during those months increased by 20% over the same period in 2019, according to preliminary estimates.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reported that the increase is the biggest for a six-month period since 1999. 

For commercial drivers, telematics offers a way to drive more safely, helping with issues such as distracted driving, road hazards and finding the safest routes. Dan Shive, Director of Client Engagement and Account Management at EnVue Telematics, works everyday helping companies find solutions to make their fleets safer.

Shive said the fatality numbers were shocking given they happened during a period when more people stayed home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. “Fatalities on our roadways are also a pandemic,” Shive said. “We simply need to know, understand and believe that driving is the most dangerous thing you will do on a daily basis.”

More Details on 2020 Traffic Fatalities

Even the NSC voiced surprise about the sharp increase in numbers. In addition to the 20% increase in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, the number of deaths per 100 million miles driven jumped 34.4%,  a number NSC called “staggering.” 

All this occurred even as people kept off roads. The number of miles driven in June, for example, was 13% lower than in June 2019. June marked the first month since the coronavirus pandemic started during which both the number of fatalities and death rate both increased.

Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the NSC, said that “because of COVID-19 and states’ shelter-in-place orders earlier this year, the country should have reaped a safety benefit from less traffic. Instead, our soaring rate of deaths speaks to our need to improve safety on our roads.”

Potential Reasons Behind the Increase

Shive also said that the report is especially alarming considering that people didn’t commute to work or go out to restaurants, movies or bars. “I read it three times and am still in shock that the figures were not favorable given the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic,” he said. “So, when we did go out and drive, what did we see?  More speeders, more reckless driving, less police presence.”

Shive said one possible explanation is that “our distraction levels were at an all-time high and we likely lost a little bit of our driving experience.”

Addressing those issues is the primary focus of digital systems offered through EnVue Telematics. They help drivers operate more safely while on the road. They also help fleet managers stay on top of the repairs and maintenance needed to keep commercial vehicles operating with maximum safety and efficiency.

Shive mentioned the “Road to Zero,” the NSC’s plan to eliminate deaths on the highway, is something all fleet managers and drivers should keep in mind. It seems especially important with fatalities increasing for the first time in years. “We have to believe that the “Road to Zero” is an attitude and your destination goal should be to arrive safely,” said Shive. “Do it for your own sake, your family’s sake, your community and neighbors’ sake.”

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