The Uneven Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on US Fatal Road Accidents

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Maya Fuks Keith Gandal Neil Gandal


One of the lesser-known categories of excess deaths of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US was that of fatal car crashes—road-death incidents went up despite the fact that driving decreased due to the lockdowns. Remarkably, then, while there was significantly less traffic in 2020 compared to 2019—the total miles traveled by car decreased by 11% in 2020—there was at the same time a 6.8% increase in fatal car crashes. This meant that the fatality rate per vehicle miles traveled increased by 21% from 2019 to 2020. 

But the increase was not uniform:  states that voted for Biden in 2020 had a much larger percentage increase in fatal car accidents per miles driven during the March to June 2020 period (the first four months of the pandemic) relative to the same period in 2019.  In the case of states that voted for Biden, the average percentage increase in fatal car accidents per miles driven per state was 45 percent while the increase was just 22 percent in states that voted for Trump.  During the next four months of the pandemic (July – October 2020), when COVID-19 was less prominent in the news and lockdowns had eased, the differences in the percentage increase in fatal car accidents per miles driven between Biden and Trump states was much smaller: 29% for Biden states versus 25% for states that voted for Trump.

Using regression analysis, we show that a higher percentage vote for Biden in 2020 is associated with a statistically significant increase in fatal accidents per vehicle miles travelled during the first four months (March – June 2020) of the pandemic relative to the same period in 2019.  On the other hand, there is no statistical difference between the next four months of the pandemic (July-October 2020) relative to 2019. 

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FUKS, Maya; GANDAL, Keith; GANDAL, Neil. The Uneven Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on US Fatal Road Accidents. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 2, feb. 2024. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 may 2024. doi:
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