Emptier streets but more reckless driving during coronavirus outbreak

(NEW YORK) — Despite there being fewer cars on the road thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, state highway safety officials across the country are reporting a “severe spike” in speeding, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

In New York City and San Fransisco, road traffic is down over 60%, according to transportation analytics company INRIX.

GHSA says the emptier streets may be encouraging drivers to engage in more reckless behaviors.

On March 27, New York City’s automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets — almost double the amount of speeding tickets the city issued daily the month prior. In some streets in Los Angeles, drivers are speeding as much as 30% more.

“Now that the streets are empty, the Fast & Furious wannabes really think they’re living in a video game,” New York City Councilman Justin Brannan tweeted. “The sounds of cars and motorcycles racing on the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge have become a scary lullaby.”

Some states are reporting fewer crashes, but more serious ones. In Massachusetts, the fatality rate for car crashes is rising. In Minnesota, motor vehicle crashes and fatalities have more than doubled compared to the same time period in previous years. Half of the fatalities in Minnesota were connected to speeding or careless driving.

The nonprofit association that represents the nation’s highway safety offices says being a safe driver is more important than ever during the novel coronavirus outbreak because emergency rooms in many areas are at capacity.

“The last thing they need is additional strain from traffic crash victims,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said.

The number of pedestrians and bikes on city streets has also increased exponentially as a result of the decline in traffic, according to GHSA, which reinforces the need for drivers to follow traffic safety laws.

In Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials are reporting a rise in pedestrian fatalities.

“During the past two months, Americans nationwide have shown that we are all willing to do the right thing to protect ourselves and each other,” Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA’s Senior Director of External Engagement and Special Projects said. “We must maintain that same sense of urgency when it comes to the road.”

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