Surprising Ways Driving Habits Changed During The Pandemic

4 Surprising Ways Driving Habits Changed During the Pandemic

2020 brought about several changes to our daily habits. Driving habits was certainly one of them, and not in ways you might expect.

With fewer drivers on the road, you’d think there would be fewer accidents and fatalities, but the opposite happened −in staggering amounts. Driving during the pandemic turned out to be riskier and even more dangerous than before 2020.

Here’s the four surprising ways that studies found driving habits changed in 2020 and 2021:

1. Motor vehicle accident fatalities increased while injuries decreased

Despite traveling less, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the fatalities related to accidents increased at a rate not seen since World War II. In 2020, 38,824 people were killed in traffic crashes in the U.S. This is about a 6.8% increase from 2019. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven (VMT) increased 21%, which is the largest percentage increase on record.

Meanwhile, injuries in motor vehicle accidents decreased by about 17%. This sort of contrast continues with several of the other changes they observed.

2. Seat belt usage only decreased slightly

Fortunately, seat belt usage only slightly decreased from 90.7% in 2019 to 90.3% in 2020. However, being unrestrained still made accidents far more likely to be fatal because of all the other risky driving behaviors that increased significantly. Among passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, more than half (51%) were unrestrained. 

3. Significant increase in alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities

Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, which accounts for 30% of 2020 overall fatalities. Alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate per 100 million VMT increased by 29% from 0.31 in 2019 to 0.40 in 2020.

Early in the pandemic, March and April of 2020, there was a decrease in alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities. However, after those first two months, fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving continually increased, with the highest increases being in the summer months of 2020.

4. Speeding at even higher speeds

Another huge contributor to the rise in fatalities in motor vehicle accidents in 2020 was speeding. Traffic data from the Office of Behavior Safety Research and Wagner showed average speeds increased during the last three quarters of 2020, and extreme speeds, those 20 mph (or more) higher than the posted speed limit, became more common. Analyses from their data on fatal crashes show an estimated 11% increase in speeding-related fatalities. 

So, while there were fewer drivers on the roads, most risky driving behaviors increased both in frequency and often severity as well. These perplexing changes form the basis of several theories as to why drivers took more risks during 2020. But, no matter the reason, we encourage you to revisit safe driving habits to keep everybody safe on the roads!

For more information or quotes on your home and auto insurance, contact Beck Insurance Agency in Archbold or Whitehouse, Ohio at 419-446-2777, email us at, or click here to submit your request.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  2. Wagner et al., 2020 and Office of Behavioral Safety Research traffic data


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