2020 – Less Traffic, More Accidents?
Jan. 13, 2021
The year 2020 burdened the state, country, and world with massive changes to our day to day lives due to Covid-19. The majority of places mandating stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the pandemic but even with traffic lessening throughout Colorado, we saw more fatal accidents than in 2019. How does that happen? The most crucial elements that help avoid accidents are obvious, so here’s the best way to address them with yourself and your loved ones to save a life in 2021 and beyond.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s December 31, 2020 report, the state witnessed 597 fatal accidents in 2019 involving drivers, passengers, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. In 2020, that number slightly grew to 602 deaths. Where driver deaths seemed to decrease, motorcycle and pedestrian deaths saw the biggest spike.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 22% of accidents are weather-related. Even the most well-experienced drivers can be caught off guard by snow, rain, hail, and other extreme weather conditions. The wind has a tendency to affect the driver’s visibility and cause lane obstructions. Precipitation of any kind distracts a driver’s visibility, lessens pavement friction making it more difficult to brake or even start moving, occasionally precipitation levels can be so high they completely submerge a roadway, causing debris to move and can significantly damage any vehicle that attempts to drive through the unpredictable depths.
4. Reckless Driving
Careless, incautious, inattentive, hasty, and impulsive are just a few ways to describe "reckless drivers" on the road. This goes beyond just speeding but most of these accidents do involve excessive speed. In Colorado, reckless and careless driving are considered different level offenses but involve similar actions by a driver.
Reckless drivers are considered “a person who drives a motor vehicle, bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or low-power scooter in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property commits reckless driving, which is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense.”
A careless driver is “a person who drives a motor vehicle, electrical assisted bicycle, or low-powered scooter in a careless and imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, or use of the streets and highways and all other attendant circumstances, commits careless driving, which is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense when no bodily injury or death to another result.”
3. Alcohol or Drug Impairment
Impaired driving causes tens of thousands of deaths nationwide every year. Even with bars and restaurants closed for a good chunk of 2020 in Colorado, we saw nearly 34% of all fatal crashes were caused by impaired drivers. Unfortunately, this statistic keeps in line with the fact that in the U.S. generally, one-third of all fatal collisions involve drugs or alcohol.
Until bodies have the time to fully process alcohol or drugs in the system, the alcohol or drug will continue to affect motor coordination and judgment, making it easy to cause a collision with any other item on the roadway. This is often when we see drivers striking pedestrians or cyclists as they are less visible to the impaired driver.
2. Fatigue and Drowsiness
Nationwide it is reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that nearly one-third of all adults regularly get less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Meaning that we ultimately set ourselves up to be less alert during day-to-day activities such as driving. The CDC again reports that driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk, even noting that 1 out of 25 adults have fallen asleep while driving.
1. Distracted Driving
The first thing that typically comes to mind for a person in 2021 when they hear “distracted driving” is cell phones. In reality, scientists describe a distraction during driving in three ways - visual, motor, and cognitive. To begin, it is described as anything that takes the driver’s eyes away from the road (visual), anything that causes hands to be away from the wheel (motor) or pull one's mind away from the task of driving (cognitive). These are sometimes unconscious acts that a driver does daily – meaning every driver around your vehicle is also guilty of these things risking a collision even more.
Remedies to Avoid an Accident
As a community, we must realize that although we feel like master multi-taskers, we are not, and in the driver’s seat is not the place to test that. It is imperative that we follow traffic laws - speed, the distance between vehicles, treat passing lanes as such, abide by construction signs, and so on. Never drive impaired - there are taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, etc. to help. Acknowledge our body needs sleep and get 7 hours when are where we can. And ultimately planning our drives ahead of time to remain as focused at the moment as possible.
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