US traffic deaths spike even as pandemic cuts miles traveled

DETROIT (AP) — Pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept many drivers off U.S. roads and highways last year. But those who did venture out found open lanes that only invited reckless driving, leading to a sharp increase in traffic-crash deaths across the country. The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued Thursday that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020. That’s an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years. Plus, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%. It was the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923. Authorities say the reckless behavior is continuing even as traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels.