Assessing the impact of COVID-19 and community responses on traffic crashes and fatalities

May 19, 2020—In response to the pandemic, safety measures such as staying at home and social distancing have become parts of everyday life. As an organization that strives to bring data and science into public safety discussions, we are curious about the indirect effects that safety measures have on public safety as we navigate the new normal.

The National Police Foundation is examining traffic crashes and fatalities from an initial sample of five states: Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Missouri. While the number of traffic and fatal crashes decreased across the states, fatality rates increased across each state during April and in parts of March compared to 2019 data. These data may suggest a probable increase in behaviors that should cause concern among policymakers, including what appears to be an increase in excessive speed and reckless driving among motorists.

Early anecdotal information suggested that reduced traffic congestion on the roads was due to stay-at-home orders as well as businesses that are either closed or running on reduced operations.[1] Consequently, increased maneuverability and absence of drivers on the roads may be incentivizing higher speeds and reduced control while driving. This assessment suggests that it is important for drivers to remain even more vigilant and practice greater safety while driving in order to reduce the potentially devastating outcomes from this emerging trend.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/the-coronavirus-pandemic-emptied-americas-highways-now-speeders-have-taken-over/2020/05/10/c98d570c-8bb4-11ea-9dfd-990f9dcc71fc_story.html; https://wtop.com/coronavirus/2020/04/a-lot-of-people-are-driving-crazy-expert-said-less-traffic-means-more-speeding-on-local-roads/; https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2020/05/15/police-across-maryland-cracking-down-on-speeders/; https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/17/us/speeding-drivers-increase-coronavirus-trnd/index.html

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