Rate of fatal crashes skyrocketed during coronavirus shutdowns

It looks like the rate of fatal crashes spiked in many cities during coronavirus shutdowns, despite the significant decrease in traffic.

Reuters reported statistics from fatal crashes across a number of sampled cities from April 2020, compared to April 2019:

  • New York City:  167%;
  • Boston: 65%;
  • Chicago: 292%;
  • Madrid, Spain: 470%.

Across the U.S., there was a 36.6% jump in fatality rates per miles driven in April, the National Safety Council said this week.

A bright spot for us: Washington State was among the outliers, with a decrease of 16%. Yet, across the country, we do seem to have a serious problem on our roads and highways.

Excessive speed and fatal crashes

A large number of fatal car crashes are linked to the vehicle speed. One-third of all crash deaths in the U.S. involve speeding.

Back to Driver’s Ed: Speed increases odds of a fatal crash

The Reuters report notes that researchers in Ohio found that the amount of extreme speeding increased dramatically, especially in and around cities.

As many of us stayed home in compliance with Washington State’s shutdown, there’s been a lot less motor vehicle traffic than usual. But people seem to be driving much more dangerously here, too.

The Washington State Patrol also says they have seen a big increase in extremely high speeds. Including speeds in excess of 150 mph.


A crash caused by a driver who is rolling down I-5 at 90 mph is not an “accident.” It is the predictable result of dangerous speeding.

As a lawyer who has worked on dozens of wrongful death cases resulting from fatal crashes, I have seen a lot of devastation and carnage caused by speeding drivers. Many otherwise law-abiding people seem to believe that the speed limit is a mere suggestion. Or, they have been privileged enough to never have experienced a traumatic crash.

“When two vehicles collide at 20 miles per hour, that results in a fender-bender,”

“When two vehicles and a pedestrian collide at 40 miles per hour, that results in a funeral.”

–  Joe Cutrufo, Transportation Alternatives 

In the first weeks of the shutdown, we noticed a big drop in motor vehicle crashes across Washington, but especially in Seattle. As the shutdown restrictions are gradually lifted, traffic has not returned to pre-COVID19 volume.

If people continue to drive at excessive speeds as more people return to the road, then the increase in the fatal crash rate won’t be a coronavirus blip. It could just be the new normal.

– Attorney Kevin Coluccio


Seattle drivers-Crash-Not-CarAccident_ColuccioLaw


Fatal crashes caused by speeding may not be intentional, but they are not “accidents.”

Here’s why we say crash, not accident – and you should, too. 


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