America’s roads have become quieter yet more “lethal” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to latest statistics.

The National Safety Council (NSC) says preliminary estimates show that, despite less drivers on the road, there was a year-over-year 14 percent jump in fatality rates per miles driven in March.

In spite of an eight percent drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019, the organization says the number of miles driven dropped 18.6 per cent, putting the mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven as 1.22 in March, compared to 1.07 the previous year.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC President and CEO.

“Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely.”

The NSC says additional insight is needed to determine what it calls an “alarming rise” in death rates but says anecdotal reports indicate that speeding has increased “significantly” since traffic reduced.

The organisation says that, even with the declining fatality numbers in March, deaths on the road were up an estimated two percent through the first three months of 2020 compared to the same time period last year.

The NSC is urging organizations and employers to join the Road to Zero Coalition, a 1,500-member group committed to eliminating roadway deaths by 2050.