One side effect of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closure orders is that the number of car accident fatalities in South Carolina is down this year compared to this time last year. That’s according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety as reported by WIS News in Columbia.
As of May 5, 2019, 327 people had died on South Carolina roadways last year. As of May 5 of this year, 255 people have lost their lives in fatal crashes in the Palmetto State, the report says. That’s a 22% decrease.
Master Trooper David Jones of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said that because of coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders, there were fewer people on the roads in April. With less traffic, there were fewer accidents. Even before COVID-19 was first reported in South Carolina, there had been a decrease in the number of traffic deaths this year compared to 2019.
But, now that COVID-19 isolation orders are being lifted, the Highway Patrol is gearing up for the typically busier and deadlier summer months, Jones said.
As car accident injury attorneys who have studied motor vehicle accidents across South Carolina for more than 50 years, we at Joye Law Firm see several factors combining in a worrisome way as we re-open the state in time for summer.
Will Summer 2020 Be Bad for Car Accidents?
As Master Trooper Jones suggests, summer months usually have an increase in car accidents. More people travel in summer, and the season is framed by three holidays – Memorial Day in May, the Fourth of July and Labor Day in September – notorious for alcohol consumption and a spike in car accidents.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the summer and early fall are the most dangerous times of year on the nation’s roads. On average, the most traffic fatalities per day occur in July and August, followed closely by June, September and October. The IIHS ran its analysis of the data twice over two six-year periods.
“Roadway deaths have declined since our original study, but the pattern of deaths is unchanged,” Charles Farmer, IIHS vice president for research and statistical services, said. “The riskiest times remain risky.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety calls the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Deadliest Days.” Car accidents involving teen drivers “increase significantly during the summer because teens are out of school and driving more,” AAA says. Inexperienced teenage drivers also stay out later at night and on weeknights more often in the summer than during the school year.
In its fourth annual study of holiday traffic fatalities, AutoInsurance.org says statistics indicate that the three summer holidays of Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day are the first, second and third deadliest holidays on the roads.
“As states begin to reopen for business following the first wave of coronavirus closures, traffic fatalities will again rise,” the report says. “This rise will be especially felt during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, a time when traffic fatalities, especially drunk driving-related deaths, are historically high.”
The authors of the study note that many local governments are canceling this year’s Independence Day celebrations in light of the coronavirus outbreak. “That means Memorial Day, the first major holiday to occur as COVID-19 restrictions lighten, could take the top spot on the list of deadliest holidays on America’s roads,” they say.
Will a Rebounding Economy Add to Summertime Car Accidents?
The IIHS study above is cited alongside another study titled “Higher Driver Death Rate Is A Downside Of Economic Recovery.” This study was conducted during the recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
As we hope for the quick economic recovery that President Trump has predicted from the COVID-19 downturn, we recall the IIHS researchers’ statements that, “As unemployment falls, both vehicle miles traveled and crash deaths increase. In a stronger economy, people tend to drive more.”
Discretionary driving, such as to go out to dinner and to travel, increases as economic conditions improve and has more impact on crash and fatality rates than the increase in commuter traffic, according to the IIHS. A good economy also affects how fast people drive, the study says.
Speeding has already become an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite there being far fewer vehicles on the road due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, state highway safety officials across the country are seeing a severe spike in speeding,” the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has reported. “Many states have reported alarming speed increases, with some noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.”
The Washington Post found similar speeding and reckless driving across the country. “Reports of drag racing, drivers chasing land-speed records, and more speed-related crashes began setting off alarm bells for police agencies across the country almost immediately after states began their coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March and traffic volumes fell dramatically,” the Post says.
Contact Our South Carolina Car Accident Attorneys
At Joye Law Firm, we know that all drivers and road users have a duty of safety to each other when we take to South Carolina’s public roads. However, experience tells us that some drivers will disregard their responsibility to take safety precautions when driving and will put themselves and others at risk of injury.
When drivers are negligent or reckless and cause accidents that lead to injury or death, they and their insurance providers should be held accountable. Our car accident attorneys help individuals and families seek full compensation for their losses after auto accidents that were not their fault. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in a South Carolina car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, let us discuss how we can help you.
Call Joye Law Firm. Contact us at 888-324-3100 or use this online contact form for a free case review today. We can help clients with car accident cases from Columbia, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, Clinton, and more.