Traffic in the Northeast and around the country has been unusually low this spring. Coronavirus-related shutdowns and a large-scale shift to working from home meant far fewer cars on the road. You might reasonably assume that would make the roads safer, but data shows something else. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), nationwide motor vehicle fatality rates increased by 14% in March of this year. Increases in some states were far more dramatic. For example, in Connecticut, traffic deaths were up 42%.
In Massachusetts, year-over-year motor vehicle deaths were up slightly in April, despite a 50% reduction in cars on the road. In New Hampshire, the increase has been even more significant. From January through May 2019, New Hampshire saw 22 traffic fatalities. Still, During the same period in 2020, 38 people were killed on New Hampshire roads–even though the -the number of vehicles on the road was less than half the norm in the spring of 2020. That’s an increase of 72% year-over-year.
Why are Traffic Fatalities Increasing?
Many variables impact traffic safety. But, one particular factor seems to be having a high impact during the coronavirus shutdowns: drivers are too confident. Fewer cars on the road could and should mean roads are safer. But, that relies on drivers exercising the same level of care. Many are not.
Massachusetts has increased patrols to crack down on speeding, which officials say has been an increased problem during the shutdown. Many drivers apparently interpret the more open roadways as an invitation to disregard traffic laws. Unfortunately, dangerous driving is still dangerous.
Excessive speed makes motor vehicle crashes more likely, since the higher rate of speed allows less time to adjust course to avoid a collision and increases stopping distance. But, it also makes a collision more dangerous to those involved. In Boston, the number of traffic crashes was down, but fatalities still climbed. Mayor Martin J. Walsh attributed that increase to higher rates of speed, since pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and vehicle occupants are all more likely to be seriously injured or killed at higher speeds.
An official with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) said driver distraction was also a frequent factor. While it’s easy to let your mind wander when not much seems to be happening on the road, it’s never safe to do so. On highways and at high speeds, your vehicle covers a lot of ground in just a few seconds, making it essential that you keep your eyes and your mind on the road. In residential areas, there’s a high potential for cars pulling out of driveways unexpectedly, people stepping into the street, bicyclists passing, children and animals running into the road and other incidents that require instantaneous response.
Staying Safe in Sparser Traffic
If you’re on the road and traffic is lighter than you’re used to, that doesn’t mean you should be any less vigilant. In fact, it’s especially important to be attentive when recent data shows that many other drivers on the road aren’t taking adequate care. And, of course, continue to observe traffic safety laws and other safety measures. Lighter traffic isn’t a reason to speed, ignore traffic signals, or opt not to wear your seatbelt.
Drivers who fail to take adequate safety measures or obey traffic safety laws are generally responsible for the harm they cause. If you’ve been injured on the road or lost a loved one to a traffic accident during the shutdown, you may be entitled to compensation.
Attorney Kevin P. Broderick knows how stressful and confusing the aftermath of a serious accident can be. He offers free consultations to help injured people get the information they need to make good decisions about how to move forward. You can schedule yours right now by calling 978-459-3085 or filling out the contact form on this site.