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Austin Car Wrecks: If Traffic Is Down, Why Are 2020 Traffic Fatalities Up?

When the pandemic started this year, one of the only good byproducts was reduced traffic. And there was a big reduction.

But with the reduction in traffic, most people expected a reduction in car wrecks and traffic fatalities. In fact, early on, several auto insurance companies were giving their customers small refunds on premiums because people were driving less.

But a new study on Austin traffic has found that even though 2020 had a lot less traffic, we saw the more Austin traffic fatalities than we’ve seen in the last five years.

The Austin Monitor, in conjunction with radio station KUT, did an investigation and found that 94 people died on Austin’s roads in 2020, the most since 2015.

Why so many? Maybe speeding. Experts theorize that with the reduction in traffic, drivers were able drive much faster. Therefore, while there are fewer wrecks, 2020’s higher speed wrecks resulted in more fatalities.

I buy that argument to some extent. But the numbers also tell me that there are other causes as well. Interestingly, the first 2020 Austin traffic fatality occurred on August 26th. But later that day, two other deadly collisions occurred, and they both involved cyclists.

I think that sheds like on a second cause. A lot of us have spent part of the pandemic rediscovering bikes and walking outside more. I’m confident that part of the reason fatalities have increased is that there have been many more bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadway. Obviously, when a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit, the victims frequently suffer much more severe injuries than if they had been protected in a vehicle.

I’ll also add that this is a trend we’ve seen in our practice. While we are seeing fewer clients who have been in wrecks, the clients we are seeing are much more severely injured that what we saw in 2019 or before.

Let’s hope that as traffic ramps back up a little — and let’s hope it takes a long time to get back to pre-pandemic traffic rates — that people slow down and make the roads safer for everyone.

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