Traffic fatalities have spiked during the pandemic – with a record-setting jump from 2020 to 2021. Experts link the surge to an increase in reckless and aggressive driving spurred by pandemic conditions. The situation has reached such a level of crisis that the government announced a new 2022 program focused on reducing roadway deaths and serious accidents.
A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report estimates 31,720 people died in traffic crashes between Jan. 2021 and Sept. 2021 – an increase of about 12% over the same time frame in 2020 and the biggest jump percentage-wise in recorded history. Between 2019 and 2020, roadway deaths were up 7.2%.
Major news outlets have picked up on the story. Here’s a link to a recent New York Times article examining causes and impacts of rising traffic deaths: Traffic deaths are surging during the pandemic
The trend isn’t necessarily news to us here at Mann, Wyatt & Tanskley Injury Attorneys. According to Mike Wyatt, personal injury attorney and partner at Mann Wyatt Tanksley Injury Attorneys, our firm has witnessed a significant increase in serious personal injury cases linked to erratic driving since the pandemic began. Wyatt said the firm’s attorneys never enjoy seeing or working a case involving severe injuries or deaths caused by reckless driving and often promote defensive driving techniques.
“Defensive driving has always been a crucial component of protecting yourself on the road,” Wyatt said, “but it’s more important now than ever.”
Here are some tips on how to drive defensively and prevent aggressive driving:
Defensive Driving Tips:
1. Always be prepared to take preventative actions to avoid any collision.
Keep both hands on the wheel, sit up straight, focus on road conditions and other vehicles, and stay generally aware.
2. Focus on the road and your driving.
This includes putting away your cell phone, not eating, and pulling over to rest if you are sleepy.
3. Always scan far ahead and keep an eye on your surroundings.
Do not just focus on the car in front of you; emphasize your focus farther ahead and on your surroundings for possible hazards.
4. Try to predict a risk, so you can take the safest action to avoid it.
You need to be able to spot a hazard or traffic risk and make a prediction of what can happen if you do or do not take any action.
5. Have a safe plan and good strategy when you notice a risk.
If you see a hazard, do not stare at it; instead, have a strategy to avoid an accident.
6. Stay a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
Follow the three-second rule, meaning you should have at least 3 seconds of driving time based on your current speed between you and the vehicle in front of you.
7. Do not drive in another vehicle’s blind spot.
Some drivers can be tired, distracted, forgetful or just lazy checking their blind spot before changing lanes, so never drive in the blind spot of another vehicle.
8. Do not expect that other drivers will drive the way you like them to drive.
Pay attention to what you can control, which is your own driving.
9. Let the other drivers know when you are maneuvering through traffic.
Always communicate with turn signals, hand signals, and your vehicle’s lights.
10. Try to stay in a safe lane on the highways.
The far right lane is for exiting and entering the highways, and the far left lane is for passing, so try not to drive in those lanes as a long-distance driving choice.
11. Don’t keep changing lanes.
Changing lanes unnecessarily and slipping between cars will increase the chances of getting into accidents.
12. Watch out for drivers who keep changing lanes or slip between cars.
If you notice a car that is dangerously speeding and maneuvering between traffic and slipping between cars, slow down and give the speeding driver enough space to maneuver around you.
13. Be careful at intersections and watch out for drivers that go through red lights.
If you are at an intersection and the light turns green, do not assume that the other drivers who have the red light are stopping.
14. Watch out for drunk, tired or bad drivers and keep your distance.
If you notice a driver is drifting in and out of the lanes, driving on the center lane or lane marker, driving too fast or too slow, or tailgating, keep a good distance away.
15. Avoid braking suddenly.
If several vehicles begin braking or slowing, brake early to avoid a sudden stop. Warn drivers behind you by tapping your brakes several times.
16. Stay away from road rage situations.
If you notice a driver is driving recklessly or is upset at your driving and honks at you, do not engage with the driver in any way or with eye contact; slow down and let the driver speed away.
How to Prevent Aggressive Driving
Leave on time. Be sure to give yourself plenty of travel time to reach your destination so you don’t drive aggressively.
Cool down first. Don’t use driving as a way to cool off if you are already angry.
Don’t tailgate. Even if the person in front of you is driving slowly in the fast lane, tailgating will accomplish nothing.
Don’t honk unnecessarily. There are some instances where a light honk might be warranted (eg. the person in front of you sitting still at a green light), but honking out of pure frustration is unproductive and irritating to everybody around you.
Have empathy. Put yourself in the other driver’s shoes — for instance, if somebody is driving slowly, they may be lost. There’s always two sides to a story, so don’t be so quick to judge.