Background: Various strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 including lockdown and stay-at-home order are expected to reduce road traffic characteristics and consequently road traffic collisions (RTCs). We aimed to review the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the incidence, patterns, and severity of the injury, management, and outcomes of RTCs and give recommendations on improving road safety during this pandemic.
Methods: We conducted a narrative review on the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on RTCs published in English language using PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar with no date restriction. Google search engine and websites were also used to retrieve relevant published literature, including discussion papers, reports, and media news. Papers were critically read and data were summarized and combined.
Results: Traffic volume dropped sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic which was associated with significant drop in RTCs globally and a reduction of road deaths in 32 out of 36 countries in April 2020 compared with April 2019, with a decrease of 50% or more in 12 countries, 25 to 49% in 14 countries, and by less than 25% in six countries. Similarly, there was a decrease in annual road death in 33 out of 42 countries in 2020 compared with 2019, with a reduction of 25% or more in 5 countries, 15-24% in 13 countries, and by less than 15% in 15 countries. In contrast, the opposite occurred in four and nine countries during the periods, respectively. There was also a drop in the number of admitted patients in trauma centers related to RTCs during both periods. This has been attributed to an increase in speeding, emptier traffic lanes, reduced law enforcement, not wearing seat belts, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has generally reduced the overall absolute numbers of RTCs, and their deaths and injuries despite the relative increase of severity of injury and death. The most important factors that affected the RTCs are decreased mobility with empty lines, reduced crowding, and increased speeding. Our findings serve as a baseline for injury prevention in the current and future pandemics.
Keywords: Alcohol; COVID-19; Death; Distraction; Injury; Road safety; Road traffic collision; Speed.
© 2021. The Author(s).