WebMD News Brief

Traffic Down, Dangerous Crashes Up During Pandemic

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April 29, 2020 -- Although traffic has decreased across the country as people shelter in place for the coronavirus pandemic, dangerous car crashes have increased as the enticing open roads allow drivers to speed, according to Newsy.

Based on car collision data, the news outlet found that car crashes and injuries were down in many places. In some cities, however, the number of motor vehicle deaths is still the same — and in some cases, the number of deaths has increased. In Minnesota, for instance, traffic fell by half during the weeks of stay-at-home orders, but crashes with fatalities doubled, according to The Star-Tribune.

“COVID has brought a whole new set of circumstances to those of us in the highway safety industry,” Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, told Newsy. “What really alarmed us in the two weeks following our stay at home order ... we experienced twice as many fatalities in 2020 than we have in any year going back to about 2015.”

The national rate of emergency calls for car crashes decreased from 62 out of 1,000 calls in February to 38 out of 1,000 calls in April, Newsy reported. Yet some of those calls are for fatalities.

“We’re now seeing, literally on a weekly basis, dozens of drivers who are being stopped and cited for traveling more than 100 miles an hour,” Hanson said.

Based on the data, collisions and injuries in Memphis have remained the same as usual, according to Newsy. In Chicago, the number of injuries is down overall, but the number per crash is higher.

In Denver, traffic is down but speeding tickets have gone up, according to Westword, and the Colorado State Patrol has issued more citations for driving 20-40 miles per hour over the speed limit than in the same period last year. Also in San Diego, multiple drivers have died in high-speed collisions, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Traffic safety experts and highway patrol officers are asking drivers to slow down, both to protect themselves and to keep hospital beds open for COVID-19 patients, according to CCX Media.

“These crashes that happen at high speeds, you’re taking away a hospital bed from someone else that may need it that has a COVID issue,” Lt. Gordon Shank of the Minnesota State Patrol told CCX Media. “This is a team effort. Make sure that you are going the speed limit, so we all get to go where we need to go safely.”