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Rural interstates top of the list because people drove too fast and dangerously on less congested roadways during the height of COVID-19.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The scene of a fatal crsh in North Portland.Traffic fatalities have spiked during the past two years nationwide, but the main catalyst for it might surprise people — the COVID-19 pandemic.

According a recently released report, traffic fatalities have increased by 9% since 2020 and 18% since 2019. Analysts with QuoteWizard, an online resource with a focus of "building the bridge between consumers and insurance providers," looked at the latest information on fatal crashes and found that the number of traffic fatalities is up across almost every measurement, especially among people ages 35-44, among pedestrians and on smaller city roads.

Traffic fatality data was sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Safety Council (NSC). The numbers revealed that people ages 35-44 saw the largest increase in traffic fatalities, and the greatest increases by state were in Idaho and Minnesota at nearly 30%. Oregon had the sixth highest increase from 2020-2021, with fatal crash increasing by 20%.

QuoteWizard went on to report that the biggest increase in traffic fatalities was on rural interstates, followed by urban interstates. Rural arterials was next highest followed by urban arterials, while rural collectors and urban collectors was the smallest upticks in fatalities.

Nick Vin Zant, a QuoteWizard research analyst, explained how the pandemic has likely caused a spike in fatal crashes. He pointed out that at the start of the pandemic, more people were staying home, resulting in fewer vehicles on most roads.

"A pattern emerged of young drivers going too fast on less congested roads," he said. "Initially, everyone thought this was going to be an aberration tied to the heart of the pandemic, that this was going to be a blip, but then fatalities went up again in 2021. That really surprised everyone."

Vin Zant said that the dangerous driving habits persisted in 2021, but more people were on the roads.

Prior to the recent spike, traffic fatalities had been trending down each years since the 1970s, a combination of safety features in cars improving and people driving slower and safer overall. Oregon could be trending that direction once again -- the first half of 2021 and compared with the first half of 2022 shows a decrease of about 8%. But Vin Zant questions whether it the decrease is indicative of a trend.

"I think it is a little bit too early to tell if the trend is being reversed," he said.

While that is the case, he noted that even more cars on the road now, in 2022, than in the previous year, which may result in a trend reversal.

"I think now there are some indications that those dangerous driving habits that were picked up during the height of the pandemic are starting to go away," he said. "We have got to go back to driving the way we did before the pandemic. That means slow down, don't drive under the influence and don't drive distracted."


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