Increase in Motor Vehicle Crash Severity: An Unforeseen Consequence of COVID-19

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American Surgeon


Introduction: The 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to stay-at-home (SAH) orders in Pennsylvania targeted at reducing viral transmission. Limitations in population mobility under SAH have been associated with decreased motor vehicle collisions (MVC) and related injuries, but the impact of these measures on severity of injury remains unknown. The goal of this study is to measure the incidence, severity, and outcomes of MVC-related injuries associated with SAH in Pennsylvania. Materials & Methods: We conducted a retrospective geospatial analysis of MVCs during the early COVID-19 pandemic using a state-wide trauma registry. We compared characteristics of patients with MVC-related injuries admitted to Pennsylvania trauma centers during SAH measures (March 21-July 31, 2020) with those from the corresponding periods in 2018 and 2019. We also compared incidence of MVCs for each zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) in Pennsylvania for the same time periods using geospatial mapping. Results: Of 15,550 trauma patients treated during the SAH measures, 3486 (22.4%) resulted from MVCs. Compared to preceding years, MVC incidence decreased 10% under SAH measures with no change in mortality rate. However, in ZCTA where MVC incidence decreased, there was a 16% increase in MVC injury severity. Conclusions: Stay-at-home orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania were associated with significant changes in MVC incidence and severity. Identifying such changes may inform resource allocation decisions during future pandemics or SAH events.



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