While none of us would look back on 2020 and say that it’s been a great year so far, the effects of this year’s unforeseen events have not all been negative. A major effect of lockdown has been to deliver a dramatic decrease in road traffic accidents; depending on where you take the figures from, different sites worldwide have seen anything from a two-thirds to three-quarters decrease.
Of course, while the end-of-year numbers will show a significant lowering in accidents, injuries and deaths from collisions, that reduction will be accompanied by an asterisk; of course the number of accidents is lower, when the number of people driving has, by definition, been lower. When things return to “normal”, is it reasonable to assume that the number of accidents will also increase back to pre-2020 levels?
The roads may be quieter for longer
One major reason for there being fewer traffic accidents since the pandemic began is the reduction in commuting; while people have been encouraged at the highest level to return to the office, it seems like there has been a rethink in that strategy. It’s also worth bearing in mind that an insistence on getting people back in the office might well be met with disagreement; people can save time and money by working from home, and if their employers agree, then more people will do so even after the virus is largely gone. That means quieter roads and fewer crashes.
Driving will be different, not necessarily easier
As we have seen worldwide, people’s compliance with instructions can start to fray around the edges the longer a restriction is in place, so we can’t say for certain that – for example – instructions against making unnecessary trips will be fully observed. In addition, there will be more delivery drivers as more people plump for doing their shopping online; so there will still be vehicles on the road, but the rhythm will be changed. This strange new world might result in accidents as drivers react to a change in the usual cues that helped them make decisions on the road.
Early data is not encouraging
Although trends develop over a longer time, the signs are that as lockdown restrictions are lifted in different places, traffic accidents have increased. That’s the best predictor of future outcomes, so it may be that vehicle recovery and diamond cut alloy repair experts will have plenty of work ahead of them when things return to relative normality. By sheer volume, there may be fewer cars on the road and therefore fewer chances for accidents, but driver behaviour seems more resistant to change than we might have hoped.
Until such time as we see long-term data – for not just 2020 but following years – we won’t be able to say just how much of a change has been made in road safety. So while this year is likely to mark a definite decrease in danger on the roads, the only way that such a decrease can become permanent is by continued good behaviour and lawful conduct behind the wheel.