The number of fatal crashes in Hamilton County in 2020 was twice what it was in 2019 despite stay-at-home orders and a decrease in traffic. A total of 26 people died in 24 crashes in Hamilton County in 2020.
County officials said stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic could have led to the increase in fatal crashes.
“People faced stressors last year like they wouldn’t normally face,” stated Monica Greer, executive director of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. “Job losses, food insecurity, and evictions. Unfortunately, we saw that play out on our roads in the form of drunk and drugged driving.”
According to a survey released by the RAND Corp., American adults increased their consumption of alcohol during the shutdown triggered by the pandemic. The results found that the overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 19 percent among adults ages 30 to 59.
“The stay-at-home orders caused more people to drink at home and fewer sought a sober driver,” Greer stated. “We’re also finding a lot of bars and restaurants making the false assumption that patrons are calling an Uber or Lyft. We all need to be more cognizant of those around us and help them find the support they need right now.”
According to the Criminal Justice Institute, 25 percent of all drivers involved in fatal collisions in Indiana are legally impaired.
Deputy Ryan McClain with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office stated that empty roads also invite faster speeds, which in turn increases the chances of a fatal crash. He said fewer traffic stops in early spring 2020, when there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the virus, could also be to blame.
“We didn’t know what we were up against,” McClain stated. “Our deputies had to balance the safety of our citizens with the safety of their lives. As a result, law enforcement agencies made fewer traffic stops in the first few months of 2020, only pulling over drivers for egregious infractions.”