Since mid-March, when much of the country shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve probably noticed the change in traffic in the Washington, DC metro area–there hasn’t been much.
With so many people remaining at home for their safety, as well as much of the workforce either working from home or simply stuck indoors, there hasn’t been as much need to be on the roads–but that hasn’t stopped reckless driving from increasing. Nor has it stopped accidents, both vehicle and pedestrian, from occurring–in large part due to more reckless driving.
On June 9th alone, two pedestrians in the DC metro area were killed by drivers–one in the District and one in Prince George’s County. Accidents overall have not proportionately decreased, despite the major reduction in actual traffic. And this trend is not limited to DC–it’s nationwide.
According to the Office of Traffic Safety in Minnesota, 42 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first 45 days after the state’s March 16 stay-at-home order took effect; compare that to 2019, when 29 people were killed on Minnesota highways during the same period. That’s 13 more deaths despite far less traffic.
Traffic Down, Reckless Driving on the Rise
With far less volume on the roads, some drivers seem to feel compelled to speed at alarming levels. You hear reports of drag racing, drivers trying to set speed records–all because roads are less full. You may have seen the story on social media in April about three men setting the coast-to-coast speed record by driving from New York to Los Angeles in under 27 hours–which would be an average of over 100 mph for the entire trip. Can you imagine sharing the road with one of them? Or, perhaps, one of your close friends or family members?
Speed-related crashes and fatalities have been disproportionate since March. According to Inrix, a transportation data firm, traffic across the country is down 41% from pre-COVID-19 numbers. This includes some of the nation’s busiest traffic cities and highways–for example, DC traffic is down 68%.
Despite those numbers, studies show traffic accidents have only dropped 21% nationwide. A major reason for this is that speeds have increased an average of 250%. Right here in DC, where, sometimes, you can barely move on the Capital Beltway during the evening rush, speeds increased from 27 mph to nearly 70 mph!
In one recent report, Jeff Marootian, Director of the DC Department of Transportation, says, “With less cars on the road, we would expect that crashes and citations would be down. And what we’re seeing is an increase in dangerous speeding and dangerous driving.”
The Local Numbers
Studies show in Maryland, traffic is down about 50%, but the number of crashes has been reduced by only 24%. Since March 15, Maryland state troopers in suburban DC have issued more than 1,000 traffic citations and warnings. One day in May alone, troopers cited 22 drivers for going more than 25 mph above the 55-mph speed limit on the Beltway in PG County–one driver was clocked at 136 mph.
But this reckless speeding hasn’t been isolated to highways–it’s happening in suburban areas, neighborhoods, and other crowded areas that are full of bike riders and pedestrians. The two pedestrian deaths in the DC area on June 9 alone are sad reminders.
What’s the Reason for Reckless Driving?
One thought is that, since highways and other roads are far less congested, drivers feel a sense of freedom they don’t usually experience. And they take advantage of that by excessively speeding, thinking that police officers won’t be cracking down on speeding violations during a pandemic. That’s obviously been proven incorrect by the growing number of citations handed out for speeding and reckless driving over the past few months.
Another reason could be boredom. People, by nature, do not enjoy being required to stay confined in the same place for extended periods as they have been during the pandemic. Fatigue sets in and people want to break free and escape the day-to-day monotony of being at home. That’s understandable, but certainly not a reason to take to dangerous speeds on the roads!
The problem with this frame of mind is that, while understandable, it’s selfish. By choosing to make their own lives a little less dull, these people put countless others in danger with their behavior. Hence the disproportionate decrease in crashes and fatalities vs. traffic volume.
Traffic Is Down, But Pedestrian Accidents Are Still Happening
As a pedestrian, it’s more important than ever to exercise the utmost caution when walking–whether it’s through your own neighborhood or down a DC city street. But if you find yourself the victim of a pedestrian accident, you’ll want representation from The Lapidus Law Firm.
Our attorneys have years of experience with pedestrian accidents, and we will work tirelessly to get you justice as you deal with medical bills, pain, suffering, and so much more. Call us at (202) 785-5111 or (301) 852-7500 to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.