Why is Maryland seeing more traffic accidents during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Last year, our Maryland personal injury law practice saw an increase in motor vehicle accident cases. This is in spite of people still working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’d expect fewer motorists crowding highways commuting to and from their workplaces.

Zero Deaths Maryland reported 544 motor vehicle crash fatalities for 2022, including 339 drivers, 64 passengers, 128 pedestrians, 11 bike or pedacyclists, and 2 unknown. This figure is down from 563 traffic accident deaths in Maryland in 2021. However, in 2020, more people died in automobile crashes here (573 deaths) than in previous years, resulting in an overall 7.1-percent increase in traffic accident fatalities for Maryland.

Nationally, motor vehicle accident fatalities since the start of the pandemic have increased to levels not seen in many years, reversing a positive trend toward fewer deaths on our roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 — a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020 and the highest number of U.S. motor vehicle accident deaths since 2005.

So what is going on here? Traffic safety experts aren’t entirely sure.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggests that people who continued driving during the pandemic also engaged in the risky behaviors that lead to fatal auto accidents. Citing preliminary research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the GAO reports that “people who continued to drive during the pandemic may have engaged in riskier behavior including speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.”

A 2020 survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that “people who drove more than usual during the pandemic were more likely to engage in riskier behaviors, including reading text messages, speeding, running red lights on purpose, aggressively changing lanes, not wearing seat belts or driving after having consumed alcohol or cannabis,” NBC News reports.

These national trends reflect what is happening in our state of Maryland — and what we’re seeing from the auto accident injury cases coming into our office. Despite the pandemic and lower traffic volume, our roadways are not getting any safer. Be careful and drive defensively.


During COVID-19, Road Fatalities Increased and Transit Ridership Dipped
U.S. Government Accountability Office blog  Jan. 25, 2022

Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  May 17, 2022

Zero Deaths Maryland – Crash Data
Zero Deaths Maryland, collected online Jan. 25, 2023

Deadly car crashes hit a high in early 2022. Pandemic-fueled risky driving may be to blame
NBC News  Aug. 22, 2022

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