New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s New American Driving Survey showed the average number of all daily car trips at the start of the pandemic early last year dropped by 45 percent as COVID-19 and associated restrictions led to a drastic drop in road travel. Daily trips rebounded in May and June but remained 20 percent to 25 percent below their 2019 levels for the remainder of 2020.
According to the research, trips by all modes of transportation plunged by 40 percent in April 2020. The average number of daily trips for all modes of transportation fell from 3.7 trips per day in 2019 to 2.2 trips.
The study also found that daily car trips fell from 3.2 pre-pandemic to 1.8 in April 2020, before rebounding slightly to 2.6 trips for the rest of 2020. Daily trips for those living in urban areas dropped 42 percent (compared to 25 percent for those living in suburban areas), before leveling off to a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction.
The proportion of people who reported making any trips by transit, taxi or rideshare plummeted from 5.5 percent pre-pandemic to 1.7 percent in April of 2020, before leveling off at approximately 2.4 percent for the remainder of the year.
Work-related travel by all transportation modes dropped by 40 percent in April 2020, likely reflecting a mix of layoffs, job losses and telecommuting. Commuting trips made by workers on days when they worked decreased by approximately 22 percent. For the remainder of the year, commuting trips were approximately 26 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
Despite fewer cars on the road and more people staying home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently estimated that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020 — an increase of about 7.2 percent over 2019 and the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007. The most recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Traffic Safety Culture Index found that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous.
“As the U.S. climbs out of the COVID-19 pandemic, highway safety officials will need to double down on curbing speeding, substance-impaired driving and failure to buckle up,” said Aldo Vazquez, AAA Utah spokesperson.