Study: Pandemic-induced road rage may have increased wreck fatalities


By WVUA 23 News Reporter Whitney Leibold

A University of Alabama researcher is studying the effects of pandemic mandates on fatal crashes within the state.

Confused about the potential correlation? Here’s the explanation: Any residents who were angry about state, local or business-related masking or distancing requirements may have expressed those feelings behind the wheel via aggressive driving habits, speeding or driving while impaired.

UA Center for Advanced Public Safety Researcher David Brown looked at traffic records from the first half of 2019 and the same period in 2021. He found that while there were 10% fewer crashes in 2021, there was a 1% increase in fatalities — many of those caused by speeding, impaired or aggressive driving.

“The reason for aggressive driving and possibly these other things was frustration that so many people felt because of the restrictions that were made,” Brown said.

Within the first few weeks of the pandemic’s widespread onset in March 2020, traffic was cut in half. Overall crashes — fatal and nonfatal — dropped by the same amount.

But in the last half of 2020, the fatal crash rate increased to numbers similar to those in 2019, Brown’s study revealed. If you’re interested in the numbers, the study is available for viewing at the Safe Home Alabama website right here.

In the first half of 2021, impaired driving crashes increased 3.7%, speeding-related crashes increased 5.3% and aggressive driving crashes increased 3.8%.

Brown’s advice to anyone on the road is obey speed limits, keep distractions at a minimum and wear a seat belt.

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