Taking Care on the Roads During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Virus Leads to Less Traffic But Higher Average Speeds

Taking Care on the Roads During the COVID-19 PandemicWith New Jersey under shelter-in-place orders, there are few places people can go, which means less traffic on the roads. That should make the streets and highways safer, shouldn’t it? Well, that depends on how you look at things.

In New Jersey and across the country, law enforcement officials report that the number of crashes on the roads has plummeted. California has reported a 50% decrease in accidents. New York and New Jersey report similar reductions—New York City’s traffic is allegedly down nearly 60%.

Traditionally, when there’s less traffic on the roads, the number of crashes decreases as well. Such a decrease is often seen when gas prices go up significantly because fewer people are driving. If the accident rate remains constant, that equates to fewer crashes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, though, officials are seeing a somewhat different result. It appears that the dramatic absence of traffic on the roads has had a counter-effect—it’s led, in many places, to higher average speeds by motorists. Those higher speeds have contributed to higher fatal accident rates, generally offsetting the reductions anticipated as a result of decreased traffic. Consider these statistics:

  • In March, 2020, there were more traffic fatalities in New York City than for the same period in 2019, even though data showed an 80% decrease in vehicle miles in the city over the prior year. Officials point to significantly higher speeds as a factor—for example, in 2019, the average speed on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway during rush hour was 13 mph—this year, it was four times that fast.
  • Massachusetts reported a 73% decrease in motor vehicle accidents in March as compared to last year, but only a 38% decrease in fatal crashes.

At the Lee Law Firm, we are committed to taking responsible action to help combat the coronavirus. We recommend following the governor’s lead on social distancing and sheltering in place. We understand that you may need to get out on the roadways in New Jersey. If you do, pay more attention. Stay safe and come home safe.

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