Increase in Relative Highway Fatalities During the COVID-19 Pandemic with Respect to Driver Age Distribution
by Shani Getz
Category: Social Sciences
Abstract – The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020 marked the start of a significant decrease in total vehicle miles traveled. This decrease was caused by lockdowns, increased unemployment and teleworking, and the shutdown of many different institutions. However, there has been a puzzling increase in relative highway fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). In this paper I hypothesize that this increase in relative highway fatalities was due to a change in age profile of the drivers that was caused by rising unemployment rates and teleworking. I developed a model to represent the total highway fatalities as a weighted sum of each age group’s contribution so that, by varying the age distributions, different total highway fatalities would be calculated. Age distributions were estimated for pre-COVID and during COVID times using various datasets. Despite using two different approaches with the model, the estimated age distributions for pre-COVID and during COVID ended up being too similar to demonstrate a significant increase in highway fatalities, and thus were unable to serve as evidence for the documented increase. However, different methods of estimation or including more factors could better showcase the change in driver age composition and, furthermore, better explain this increase in highway fatalities per 100 million VMT.