During these trying times, people are under unprecedented stress every single day. While some find constructive ways to reduce anxiety, others have adapted behaviors that are dangerous to themselves and others, including reckless driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently published a report which found that the roads and highways are more hazardous now than before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The study shows that there is an increase in speeding, a decrease in wearing seat belts, and higher numbers of drugged driving collisions and drunk driving accidents. The statistics are broken down into a variety of categories, including the number of fatalities, time and day, number of intoxicated drivers, age, and sex. Overall, young men involved in car accidents were more likely to have alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs in their systems.
Fatality Rates Increase
The NHTSA study compared previous road fatality numbers to those during the pandemic. In March 2020, 21.3 percent of fatalities involved alcohol, which increased to 26.9 percent by mid-July. The presence of marijuana was seen in 21.4 percent of fatal accidents in March and increased to 31.2 percent. Opioid-related incidents also increased from 7.6 percent to 12.9 percent.
The study concluded that drivers exhibited a higher prevalence of drug use during this time, with almost 65 percent testing positive for one or more active drugs in their system. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this number was 50.8 percent. The NHTSA report also looked at ejection rates, which saw an increase among males, people who lived in rural areas, and individuals who were 18 to 34 years old. Researchers theorized that these numbers reflected the fact that less older drivers were on the roads and that younger people were more reckless.
Are More Drivers Intoxicated During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Statistics seem to point in this direction. Alcohol impairs judgement and reaction time, as well as impacts one’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. As a person drinks more alcohol, the negative effects increase. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the weight of alcohol per volume of blood. A 0.08 percent BAC level is illegal in every state; however, even smaller amounts can also affect driving abilities. A 0.02 percent BAC level can lead to a loss of judgment, and 0.05 percent can cause loss of small control and lowered alertness. According to the NHTSA, approximately one-third of U.S. traffic accident fatalities involved intoxicated drivers with BAC levels of 0.08 percent or higher. The NHTSA estimates that drunk driving rates will be higher in 2020 than previous years.
What are the Penalties for Drunk Driving in Delaware?
A driver who has a BAC level over 0.08 percent will face up to at $1,500 fine, up to 12 months in jail, and up to a 24-month revocation of one’s driver’s license. Higher BAC levels can lead to penalties of mandatory jail time, increased fines, and longer license suspensions. Delaware has a zero-tolerance policy for intoxicated minors. If a minor is found to be drinking before the legal age, they will face license suspension and hefty fines. Additionally, judges can order intoxicated drivers to attend victim impact panels and perform community service.
What Constitutes as Reckless Driving?
Impaired driving is just one type of reckless driving. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many drivers to ignore safety precautions because of the decrease in traffic and the higher levels of anxiety during this time. Drivers may not even realize that they are speeding, especially when they are distracted by other concerns. This is dangerous, and when people are going too fast, they can neglect to notice other vehicles and pedestrians. It can also increase the chances of missing traffic signs, making unsafe turns, and tailgating. When drivers are too close to cars in front of them, it does not leave enough room or time to respond safely if the car in front changes direction or suddenly stops.
Stressed motorists may be prone to running red lights and stop signs. Reckless drivers may also change lanes abruptly, which increases car accident rates. Nearby drivers who are not prepared for theses sudden changes may slam on their brakes or swerve and hit another vehicle.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving occurs when motorists are not paying full attention to the road. It can be due to intoxication and other factors. Taking one’s eyes off the road for a fraction of a second can cause devastating accidents, no matter the cause. It is estimated that over 30 percent of drivers check text messages and emails while driving. Other distractions include checking navigational devices, arguing with passengers, personal grooming, eating and drinking, and adjusting the temperature or changing radio stations. Anything that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road is potentially dangerous.
Careless Driving and Reckless Driving
In Delaware, there are differences between careless and reckless driving. Reckless driving penalties include up to a $300 fine and up to 30 days of jailtime. However, if a serious bodily injury was caused by reckless driving, the liable driver could be convicted of aggravated assault by a vehicle, which is a third-degree felony. To prove that a driver was reckless, it must be shown that they knew or purposely did something risky while driving. However, careless driving has different penalties, which can include up to $75 in fines. If there is a serious bodily injury to another party, the penalties will be different.
How can I Drive More Safely?
One of the best pieces of advice for drivers during this crisis is to focus on safe driving. Some ways to stay safe while driving includes the following:
- Maintaining a safe speed.
- Do not drive while stressed or anxious.
- If planning to drink, arrange for a designated driver or rideshare
- Plan routes in advance.
- Avoid distractions, including use of cellphones.
- Avoid drowsy driving.
If a car accident does happen, a victim may have legal options available. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Once medical attention is sought, a victim should speak to an attorney. A lawyer will help with a personal injury claim that is necessary for compensation.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Injured Victims During the Pandemic
Our skilled Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC help injured victims obtain the justice and compensation they deserve. If you were hurt in a car accident, contact us online or call us at 302-888-1221 for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Middletown, and Newark.