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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans drove less but engaged in far riskier behavior on the road, government data shows.

Driving the news: More than half of all crash fatalities last year involved unbelted drivers or occupants, the highest level since 2012, The Wall Street Journal notes.

Between the lines: An estimated 38,680 people died in car crashes last year, 7% more than in 2019, despite less cars being on the road. The number of unbuckled vehicle occupants killed in crashes jumped an estimated 15% from 2019.

  • Some states are trying to persuade more Americans to buckle up as travel has increased after COVID-19 lockdowns. Colorado state officials hope creative marketing will help persuade the 14% who state surveys show don’t wear seat belts, per the WSJ.
  • In 20 states, police can pull a car over if an officer sees an unbuckled adult in the front or back seat. Twenty-nine states have weaker laws where police need another reason, such as speeding, to stop a car and issue a citation, the Journal notes.

What they're saying: “It’s a reversal, and it’s concerning,” Ken Kolosh, statistics manager at the nonprofit National Safety Council, told the WSJ. He cited “the collective stress that the nation was facing and the risk-taking behaviors that fell out of that.”

Go deeper

Nov 3, 2021 - Technology

Robot drivers seen as fix for soaring highway deaths

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are driving more recklessly, with deadly consequences. The best way to reverse the trend could be to let robots do the driving, provided the technology is rolled out safely.

Why it matters: After decades of improvement, U.S. traffic deaths are climbing again, even though vehicles are safer than ever. An estimated 20,160 people died in vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021, an 18% spike over last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.