The year 2020 was one we’ll never forget, mainly for the wrong reasons. Another piece of bad news from that year: even though traffic was down significantly during New Jersey’s lockdown, traffic fatalities still went up.
The New Jersey State Police recently released its fatal auto accident analysis for 2020. The report found that 587 people died in a total of 550 collisions on roads and highways in the state. Compare that to 2019, when 555 people were killed in 521 crashes. More people died in more deadly collisions despite fewer people and vehicles being on the roads.
The worst culprit (and a close second)
Distracted driving led the way, but just barely. Drivers distracted by their phones, food or other non-driving activities caused 163 deaths. Meanwhile, drunk and drugged drivers killed 162 people. And it looks like things got worse last year. Preliminary data for 2021 suggests it could have been the deadliest traffic year in New Jersey since at least 2006.
What is happening?
The apparent contradiction of more serious car accidents during a time of reduced traffic occurred in most of the U.S. in 2020. Many experts believe the empty streets and highways tempted many drivers into speeding and otherwise behaving recklessly. It could be that motorists who picked up bad habits during 2020 carried those over to last year — and are still putting lives at risk today.
There is never a good excuse for negligent or dangerous driving. Controlling a powerful machine like a car, truck or SUV is risky enough when the driver is being careful. Throw in intoxication or a distracting smartphone and you have a potential disaster waiting to happen.