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Data Show Fewer Drivers, More Severe Crashes for 2020

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May 11, 2021—The pandemic year had predictable results on driving habits. Fewer people hit the roads as work-from-home situations considerably cut commuter traffic.

But  new data compiled in CCC's 2021 Crash Course report help to put context around the impact for crash-related insurance claims and work for collision repairers. One surprising result: fewer crashes with more severity.

Less Traffic in 2020

This was the most predictable outcome for driving habits in 2020, and the data back it up. CCC's report showed a 46 percent decrease in the average vehicle miles driven by April 2020, when widespread workplace closures took effect.

By October of that year, less than half of major metro areas had returned to pre-pandemic levels of vehicle miles travelled.

Rural or urban roads, truckers or family cars, it didn't matter. Traffic volume fell in all areas.

Claims Took a Hit, Too

Motor vehicle accidents and auto claims fell as well in 2020. CCC's data showed that a small decline reported in 2019 turned into a bigger slide in 2020. 

The biggest drop happened in the second quarter of that year. Collision and liability claims fell by more than 40 percent and remained at more than 20 percent decline in subsequent quarters.

Accidents More Severe

One of the more interesting statistics to come out of 2020 was that accidents tended to be more severe. CCC's Crash Course report says that many municipalities reported higher rates of speeding and more tickets for driving faster than 100 mph.

The number of crash fatalities fell during April and June 2020, when the most people were still at home. But the fatality rate increased, meaning that there was a greater chance for a deadly crash, even with fewer crashes overall.

There was also an increase in auto claims that were flagged as non-driveable and total loss, CCC's report says. The difference was slight—2 to 4 percent higher for one sample period—but still an increase. And the rate of non-driveable claims remained mostly above 2018 and 2019 levels throughout 2020.

Looking Ahead

CCC says that claims volumes so far in 2021 are down, but more people are returning to work and hitting the roads for personal travel. That could lead to a "normalizing" of auto claims, but it's still not clear what normal will look like post-pandemic.

There has been a real shift toward permanent work-from-home and remote work for many organizations, and that could have a cumulative effect on auto claims, travel habits, and crash data. It will take a few years of data to see if any new permanent trends take hold.

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