It’s counterintuitive: Highways emptied out due to nationwide stay-at-home restrictions, yet America’s roads seem more dangerous than ever. Law enforcement officials and those who monitor traffic statistics report that reckless driving has increased dramatically since March, resulting in higher-than-normal fatalities.
Missouri State Patrol reports that traffic was down 40% between March and the end of April, but some drivers are taking the more open highways as license to go a tad faster than the posted speed limit. Capt. John Hotz at MSHP headquarters in Jefferson City says troopers in Missouri have routinely clocked drivers at 100 mph and above since the COVID-related drop in traffic. One motorist hit 145 mph.
Fatalities are up
Unfortunately, the drop in traffic has not brought a corresponding drop in fatal accidents in the state. Hotz reports that fatal accidents were up 3% by early April over the same period in Missouri in 2019. That is a trend that is being mirrored across the U.S.
“We have more available lane space for drivers to use and abuse, and people are really, really abusing,” Michael Hanson, director of the Office of Traffic Safety in Minnesota, told the Washington Post. In Atlanta, a police officer who was supposed to be in self-quarantine after testing positive for the novel coronavirus was stopped by a state trooper for driving 130 mph in a 65 mph zone.
It’s not surprising that less congestion leads to higher speeds on highways, but authorities are especially concerned that vehicles are driving over 60 mph on residential streets where pedestrians are common. Data analytics company Zendrive reports that motorists are also more distracted than usual. They are braking harder and using their phones more while driving.
Speed as a stress reliever?
Authorities feel that less congestion is a primary reason for the increased speeds, but it’s not the only one. Motorists may realize that some police departments have reallocated resources to focus on things other than speeding. And psychologists say driving fast is a popular method for many people to release stress that may be building up due to the virus lockdown. Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol emphasizes that troopers are still out there watching for speeders and writing tickets – expensive tickets.
Increased speeds result in more serious injuries when accidents do occur. Injured parties in Lee’s Summit and Greater Kansas City should enlist the representation of an experienced personal injury law firm to help them maximize the amount they recover for medical costs, lost wages and more.