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Study finds dramatic decrease in motor vehicle injuries and fatalities in older Ontario adults during early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic

May 25, 2021

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A new study examining the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on drivers and pedestrians in the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic has found motor vehicle injuries and fatalities decreased by two-thirds for individuals ages 80 years old and up.

The study was recently published in Accident Analysis and Prevention.

“We believe this is the first study to assess the direct effect of a pandemic on injuries and fatalities in drivers or pedestrians who are 80 years old and over,” Dr. Mark Rapoport, study co-investigator and acting head of geriatric psychiatry in Sunnybrook’s Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program. “Our study demonstrates that physical distancing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 led to a dramatic decrease in driver injuries and fatalities for this segment of the elderly population.”

Researchers examined the number of injuries and fatalities for Ontario drivers and pedestrians ages 16 years and over from the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (Canada) database. The study compared data 30 days before and after the province declared a state of emergency on March 17, 2020 when physical distancing measures were put in place.

Researchers found before March 17, 2020, drivers 80 years old and over represented 21 out of 1000 injuries and fatalities. After that date, this number dropped to eight out of 1000 – a nearly 65 per cent reduction in injuries and fatalities attributable to this age group.

Researchers found drivers in the 35-54 year old age range saw a smaller decrease of 23 per cent, but no significant changes for other age groups.

“Older adults have had the greatest mortality associated with COVID-19 from complications arising from the virus itself. This may be indirectly mitigated, to a small degree, by their reduced road related deaths,” says Dr. Rapoport.

Read the full study » 

Media contact:
Jennifer Palisoc
Communications Advisor
jennifer.palisoc@sunnybrook.ca