It should not surprise anyone that police in North Carolina are reporting fewer car accidents since the governor’s stay-at-home order first went into effect on March 30. With highway traffic down as much as 50%, it makes sense that fewer cars, trucks and SUVs on the roads would mean fewer crashes, including on city streets. For example, since the last few days of March, Raleigh police have received about half as many calls about auto accidents as they did over the same time period last year.

But it may shock you to learn that while the overall number of collisions is down, the number of fatalities in car accidents is virtually unchanged year-over-year. Through May 8, the state Department of Transportation reports 443 deaths in motor vehicle accidents. That is just one fewer fatality than over the same period in 2019. And the total number of deadly crashes is only down 2%.

Why are fatal auto accidents not going down?

What’s the explanation? It could be several things. Speeding tickets are down, but citations for driving more than 25 mph over the speed limit are up 13%. Fatal accidents involving “heavy trucks” such as tractor-trailers are up 45.5%, with 60% more deaths in truck accidents this year. However, other common causes of deadly wrecks, like drinking and driving and distracted driving, are not occuring more often than usual.

Mark Ezzell of the Governor’s Highway Traffic Safety Program believes the stress of the pandemic could be causing more serious crashes. Even if more drivers are not distracted by their phones or other devices, they could be thinking about the effects of the lockdown: layoffs, sickened family members, and so on. A mind occupied with such serious matters may not be able to focus on the road as well as it should.

Wrongful death litigation can help families find justice

There is never a good excuse for causing a deadly car accident. Everyone on the road is trying to get to their destination safely. All it takes is one bad driver to take an innocent life. When the worst occurs, a personal injury attorney can help a grieving family find a form of closure.