Report: Car crash fatalities surged during pandemic

U.S.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Deadly traffic crashes are near a 13-year high, with more than 38,000 people dying on U.S. roads last year. But a bill in Washington is designed to put the brakes on that problem.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says reckless driving, dangerous speeding and drunken and impaired drivers have caused car crash deaths to skyrocket.

“Fatalities between 2019 and 2020 were up about 7%,” said Ron Snyder with Maryland State Police.

The trend is not limited to Maryland.

Last year, when more people stayed home during the pandemic, the U.S. saw the highest number of deaths on the roads since 2007. The trend appears to be getting worse, with traffic deaths at a 15-year high for the first six months of 2020.

In response to the spike in deaths, state troopers across the nation are now setting up DUI and speeding stings and begging drivers to slow down to save lives.

“Just follow the speed limit,” Snyder said. “Put the cellphones down, don’t drive impaired, and we’ll all be a little safer because of it.”

Experts tell NewsNation that drunken driving, which tracks with surging alcohol sales during the pandemic, is also playing a role in many of the deadly crashes.

A new anti-drunken driving technology called for in the infrastructure bill could help. It tests a driver’s breath for alcohol.

The technology is in the testing phases now but could be required by 2026 and is projected to save 9,400 people a year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The program is a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and automakers and operates as a pilot now under the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety program.

As of Wednesday, the breath test sensors, which make a car inoperable if a BAC over the legal limit is detected, are being tested in eight trucks operated by Schneider, a transportation and logistics company.

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