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Putting 2020 In The Rearview Mirror: Fewer Cars On The Road, But More Deadly Accidents

As we take a look in the rearview mirror at the crash stats compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation for 2020, we have yet another reason to be glad that terrible year is over. Despite a significant drop in the number of vehicle miles traveled due to the pandemic, the number of people killed in traffic crashes in Illinois spiked by 15.6% last year. 

In a report in the Chicago Tribune, state officials noted:

speeding and other risky driving behaviors, prompted by emptier-than-normal roads as states like Illinois issued coronavirus lockdown orders, [possibly fed] the jump in deaths.

“We do know anecdotally from law enforcement that speeding and reckless driving likely increased with deadly consequences during the pandemic, in Illinois and throughout the country,” state transportation spokesperson Maria Castaneda said in an email.

“In general, when there is less traffic, there is a temptation to exceed the posted speed limit,” Illinois State Police spokesperson Delila Garcia said in an email. “The Illinois State Police is asking the motoring public to fight the temptation. Slow down and pay attention to the road.”

The news story also noted that Illinois is not the only state where the pandemic has coincided with an uptick in traffic deaths. Preliminary data for the first nine months of the year from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that 28,190 people died in crashes from January to September 2020, a 4.6% increase compared to the first nine months of 2019 when 26,941 fatalities were recorded. 

This increase occurred despite a large drop in vehicle miles traveled due to the pandemic. NHTSA estimates Americans traveled 355.5 billion fewer miles than normal in the first nine months of 2020, down nearly 15% compared with the same period of 2019.

The take-away from all this data is that Illinois residents need to be vigilant each time they get behind the wheel. Just because there are fewer cars on the road doesn’t mean that the drivers still out there are good drivers making good choices. Following the speed limit and other traffic laws is just as important when there are fewer cars on the road as it is when the roads are congested. 

In addition to helping keep you safe, following traffic laws means if you are involved in an accident you should be able to seek compensation for your injuries from the other driver. Illinois is a comparative fault state, which means you can only seek compensation if the accident was less than 51% your fault. If the evidence shows you were the main reason an accident occurred, you will be denied any money to help pay your medical expenses or other bills. 

Even if you are eligible for compensation, the amount you can recover may be reduced if you were even partially responsible for the accident. For example, say you racked up $100,000 in medical expenses because of your accident. If the evidence shows you were 20% responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, you will only be eligible for $80,000 in compensation. 

Not following traffic laws is one of the main reasons accident victims see their compensation reduced. All that being said, you should speak to an attorney after an accident, even if you think you were at fault. You can’t tell from an article on the internet how the law will impact your specific case. 

If you have been involved in a car accident in the Chicago area, the Stein & Shulman team is here to help. No matter how many cars are on the road, and what laws may have been violated, we are here for you. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.