Covid-19 likely to slash road toll

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to reduce the road toll to historically low levels, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“The economy is the biggest single influence on the road toll. The road toll plummeted globally after the 2008 global financial crash and rose again as the economy recovered. In fact, the OECD found that: 'The economic downturn in 2009-10 may well have contributed to about two-thirds of the decrease in fatalities from 2008'. The same reduction is likely to occur this year; as people travel less, the road toll is likely to be substantially reduced.”

“Globally, a high percentage of the road toll involves trucks: reduced demand for many goods means less trucks on the road and therefore a reduction in the number of fatalities.”

"Recessions also mean that the highest risk group – poorly educated males – are less likely to be employed. Therefore they will tend to drive less, which will reduce car accidents."

“Pedestrian and cycle accidents are likely to drop also, because there will be fewer car trips and less people getting drunk. Less people getting drunk means less drunk drivers hitting pedestrians and cyclists. Less people getting drunk also means less drunk pedestrians and cyclists.”

Matthew-Wilson believes motorcycle accidents may fall more slowly.

“In the last two decades there has a been a spike of middle-aged men riding large motorbikes, which has led to multiple fatalities. While sales of these large bikes are likely to drop sharply, the men who already own them are likely to keep riding, although they may ride less often. So, motorbike accidents are likely to fall also, but perhaps not as fast as car and truck accidents.”

Matthew-Wilson is calling on governments to invest in road safety improvements during the recession that is following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The road toll has actually been dropping overall throughout the western world since the late 1980s. Aside from the economy, the biggest factors in the lowered road toll have been safer cars and safer roads.”

A study by Monash University of the effectiveness of roadside fencing and median barriers concluded that: “reductions of up to 90% in death and serious injury can be achieved, with no evidence of increased road trauma for motorcyclists.”

Matthew-Wilson adds:

“Rather than spending billions on new roads, governments should be upgrading existing roads to protect all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. This will create jobs while helping the road toll stay low after the economy recovers.”