With Less Traffic, More Drivers Are Speeding During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Speed radar
Credit: John Roman Images/Shutterstock.com
So now it’s come to this. A warning not to speed during the COVID-19. With fewer cars on the road, apparently a lot of people are doing it. The Governors Highway Safety Association says state highway officials are seeing a severe spike in speeding due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. The GHSA also says they are also reporting alarming speed increases, with some noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.
The problem is prompting the GHSA to remind drivers that safety is always important and now more than ever.

“While COVID-19 is clearly our national priority, our traffic safety laws cannot be ignored,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Law enforcement officials have the same mission as health care providers — to save lives. If you must drive, buckle up, follow the posted speed limit and look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Emergency rooms in many areas of the country are at capacity, and the last thing they need is additional strain from traffic crash victims.”

Government stay-at-home orders have led to a dramatic drop in traffic congestion, but a spike in #speeding. California's...

Posted by Governors Highway Safety Association on Friday, April 17, 2020


The timing on this couldn’t be worse, either, due to the extra pedestrian and bike traffic we’re also seeing during the pandemic, as more people choose those options over public transportation. The GHSA says both pedestrian and bicycle traffic are reported to have increased exponentially, while motor vehicle traffic is down.

Here are a few examples of the reckless driver behaviors reported recently:

  • In Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah, police have clocked highway speeds of over 100 mph.
  • State police in Florida and Iowa are reporting drivers going 20 to 40 miles over the posted speed limit.
  • In New York City, despite far fewer vehicles on the road, the city's automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets citywide on March 27, or nearly double the 12,672 tickets issued daily a month earlier. In Los Angeles, speeds are up by as much as 30% on some streets, prompting changes to traffic lights and pedestrian walk signals.
  • Some states are finding reduced crash rates but more serious crashes. In Massachusetts, the fatality rate for car crashes is rising, and in Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials note pedestrian fatalities are rising.
  • In Minnesota, motor vehicle crashes and fatalities have more than doubled compared to the same time period in previous years. Half those deaths were related to speeding or to careless or negligent driving.

“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,” said Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA’s Senior Director of External Engagement and Special Projects. “We must maintain that same sense of urgency when it comes to the road. Drivers need to respect the law and look out for other road users, so that we can prevent the needless loss of life now and moving forward.”

Speeding is something the GHSA was focused on long before the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2019 GHSA report highlighted excessive vehicle speed as a persistent factor in nearly one-third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities. A 2020 GHSA report on pedestrian fatalities, published in February, found that pedestrians now account for 17% of all traffic-related fatalities.

The GHSA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and The National Road Safety Foundation, Inc. (NRSF) are partnering to provide up to $200,000 in grant funding to a community to develop, implement and evaluate a speed management pilot program. The organizations are looking for a pilot program that can be scaled nationally and plan to announce the grant winner in May.
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