While the country is reeling from more than half a million or 564,138 deaths from Covid-19 as of March 31 this year, data released by the National Safety Council (NSC) also in March shows that another 42,060 Americans died in 2020 from road accidents. This number is eight percent higher than that of 2019. It represents a 24 percent increase in the rate of death on U.S. roads compared to 2019 and the highest increase since 1924.

Ironically, this tragedy happened while there was less traffic because of the pandemic.

Risky Behavior

Experts surmise that the drivers were speeding because roads were emptier. Inrix, a traffic analytics firm, reports that there was a 35 percent increase in average speeds over the previous year in the most crowded metropolitan areas of the country.

Inrix data also shows that there was a plunge in the number and rate of collisions in 2020. This means that although there were fewer collisions than in previous years, more deaths were resulting from these. Again, high speed at the time of collision is more likely to result in deaths.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in the first half of 2020 there was a surge in arrests for speeding and reckless driving nationwide. Authorities observed that drivers were exhibiting risky behavior and many crash victims tested positive for drugs and alcohol. The number of victims who were wearing seat belts was also fewer than in the past.

This kind of dangerous conduct relates to mental health issues stemming from the prolonged and extreme stress that the pandemic brings. The Stress in America 2021 report of the American Psychological Association shows that almost a quarter or 23 percent of adults in the U.S. have a higher alcohol intake as a coping mechanism against pandemic stress. Among adults who are parents of five-to-seven-year-old children in elementary school, a majority or 52 percent are drinking more alcohol to cope.

A report from the Henry Ford System Health Staff in March states that teens who have depression or anxiety in reaction to the pandemic can engage in high-risk behavior, drink excessive alcohol, and take drugs.

Stay Safe on the Road

If you need to drive to work or even just to buy your groceries, you must be extra careful and keep an eye out for drivers who are speeding or violating other traffic rules. Research in advance so that you know what to do in case an accident happens. Have the contact details of a personal injury lawyer you can immediately call.

You must go to the hospital at once even if you are conscious and walking. Doctors must check you for any injuries you may not be aware of and give prompt medical attention. This will also establish the date and time of your injury and will be part of your evidence.

As soon as possible after the incident, write down all the details you remember. You will need the facts when you file for compensation for damages. Ask your lawyer to get a copy of the police report so that you can check it for accuracy.

You must not settle with the liable driver until after the doctors finish checking you thoroughly because you may need long-term treatments that the other party must pay for. Once you accept a settlement, you can no longer ask for further compensation. Consult your lawyer before accepting any settlement because you might not be aware of the fair amount for your case.

Be a Responsible Driver

You must also make sure that you are driving responsibly whenever you are on the road. You, too, are vulnerable to pandemic stress that leads to anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, irritability, quick temper, and flawed decision-making.

Lack of sleep can make you groggy or dizzy while driving. Irritability, a quick temper, and flawed decision-making can lead you to challenge other drivers on the road for the slightest reason. Among the recommendations to manage stress are regular exercise, good quality of sleep, a healthy diet, and nurturing emotional connections with family and friends while observing physical distancing.

The minimum requirement for exercise according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on weekdays combined with two days of muscle-strengthening exercises each week. You can do more if you are no longer a beginner. Regular physical activity has the added benefit of resulting in better sleep at night.

Your diet must include lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and beans while avoiding high sodium, high sugar, and too much alcohol. Also, stay away from junk food and overprocessed food.

Soothe your emotions through video calls with family and friends who are not in your household. This will keep all of you grounded with feelings of love and affection to counter stress. Take care of your mental health so that you will not be a danger to others and yourself. Instead, be among those who are helping keep everyone safe.