distracted driving

Risky Motorist Behavior Increased Sharply During the Pandemic

People handle stress in a variety of different ways. Some choose to purposefully calm themselves down, while others tend to ride any surge of adrenaline that stress provides them with. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to deal with stress, except when one’s coping mechanisms endanger oneself and/or others. This is when one’s behavior tends to lead to the kind of negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous conduct that results in lawsuits.

In the Spring of 2020, California and many other states across the nation began to enact significant restrictions in response to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the U.S. As the pandemic worsened, these significant restrictions became, in nearly all cases, even more extreme until the worst of the outbreak had begun to resolve. There are few people in America who weren’t negatively affected by the pandemic in one way or another. Many used the period in our recent history commonly referred to as “lockdown” to develop new hobbies, get in better shape, and generally attend to their wellbeing. This approach was a particularly constructive response to the stress of the pandemic. By contrast, many others responded to pandemic-related stress by engaging in risky behaviors – no doubt fueled by the adrenaline that significant stress produces in the body.

According to the 2021 Travelers Risk Index, a shocking percentage of motorists engaged in truly risky behavior during the pandemic. It is not yet clear whether this significant spike in dangerous travel behavior will linger into the “post-pandemic” period wherein states are taking significant strides to “open back up” or whether motorists will finally start calming down as their stressors resolve to a great extent.

How Much Did Dangerous Driving Behavior Spike During Lockdown?

The 2021 Travelers Risk Index reveals that one-quarter of motorists surveyed were under the impression that American roads had become safer when the pandemic began to rage in the U.S. in the Spring of 2020. Perhaps empowered by a sense of overall safety (in addition to stress-related adrenaline) motorists began driving in ways that can only be described as exceedingly dangerous.

Prior to the pandemic, 8% of respondents admitted to shopping online while their cars or trucks were in motion. During the pandemic, this number spiked to 17% of respondents willing to admit to this behavior. Evidence suggests that the rate of online shopping (along with all manner of other dangerous driving behaviors) is actually higher in reality than it is when voluntarily reported. One in five respondents admitted to recording photos or videos via mobile devices while driving during the pandemic, up from a rate of one out of every 10 drivers prior to the Covid outbreak. The act of checking social media platforms while driving rose 7 percent during the pandemic and more than one in four respondents admitted to texting and/or emailing while driving during lockdown. This is the kind of behavior that causes catastrophic accidents. As experienced personal injury attorneys can attest, distracted driving behavior is among the most dangerous behavior that a motorist can engage involuntarily.

The Practical Consequences of Risky Driving During the Pandemic

Given that distracted driving can be just as risky as driving drunk, it is perhaps unsurprising that the spike in dangerous motorist behavior in 2020 led to catastrophic consequences. Even with far fewer motorists on the road than usual, the National Safety Council has reported that 2020 fatality rates tied to traffic accidents rose nearly 10 percent over 2019 rates. This staggering statistic illustrates that the combination of stress and a false sense of increased safety on the roadways proved to be a toxic combination.

It is unclear how safe Americans currently feel on the nation’s roads and whether they are dialing back their aggressive, negligent, and/or outright reckless behavior while driving. As a result, it is critically important to drive defensively as the nation opens businesses, schools, and other brick and mortar establishments back up. Don’t assume that everyone (or even the vast majority of those on the road) shares any of your safety-related concerns. At this point, you may be at the kind of high risk for crashes at all times that is generally reserved for the most dangerous travel days of the year.

Additionally, it is critically important that you practice safe, attentive driving habits. California doesn’t bar those who are partially responsible for accidents that cause harm from seeking damages from others involved. But, this doesn’t mean that you should take your safety for granted. If anything, you should feel empowered to know that you have rights should anything happen to you but also that you place yourself in the best possible position to win an accident-related lawsuit if you’re driving safely in the first place.

Legal Aid Is Available

If you have been injured in an accident as a result of another’s risky behavior, please schedule a free, risk-free consultation with our reputable legal team today. If you are concerned that you may have contributed to the cause(s) of your collision in some way, you should still schedule a free case evaluation as soon as you possibly can. California is a “pure comparative negligence” state, which means that even if you were partially to blame for your accident, you remain legally empowered to hold others responsible for their negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous behavior as well.

Note also that if criminal charges have been filed against those who harmed you, this does not – in any way whatsoever – limit your ability to hold them financially responsible in civil court. Civil and criminal matters are distinct in the U.S., so you should continue to pursue civil remedies even if criminal charges have been filed or dismissed in your case.

As an injury victim, you have rights under the law. Please allow our experienced team to evaluate your situation and provide you with a free, risk-free case analysis that will empower you to make informed decisions about your situation. We look forward to speaking with you.