Although the number of traffic deaths had been falling since the late 1960s, a change attributed to lower speed limits, vehicle improvements, and drunk driving declines, the New York Times recently reported that these deaths have been on the rise across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts were surprised; they had anticipated a decline due to largely empty roads. However, the pandemic increased frustration and anger, which in turn triggered aggressive driving, and this aggression continued later in the pandemic when more people began driving again.
According to analysis of federal data, per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5% between the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2020, the largest two year increase since immediately following World War II. In one instance, a man was killed by a driver who had run a red light while he was crossing the street with his family after attending a holiday lights display.
A cognitive scientist commented to the Times that the aggressive behavior could be attributed to dissipation of angry energy by pressing harder on the accelerator. The Department of Transportation also reported that the proportion of drivers who tested positive for opioids doubled after mid-March in 2020 when mitigation of the pandemic started, and positive tests for marijuana increased by around 50%.