It would be nearly impossible to find an aspect of our modern lives that has not been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our education systems, views on work-life balance, diet and exercise, mental health, travel habits, media consumption, methods of communicating, and countless other social facets have been radically upended. At the same time, new and newly-reexamined concepts like social distancing, healthcare inequality, hybrid business models, online schooling, masking, and even zoom fatigue have become part of what the public collectively recognizes as “the new normal.”
And traffic patterns have certainly not been impervious to the far-reaching effects of the global crisis. In a country highly reliant on the personal automobile, driving is one of the areas most affected by the ramifications of COVID-19. Today we will look at some recent research studies that have been conducted in an effort to keep the public informed of the extreme and ongoing changes to the U.S. transportation system in the wake of the pandemic.
If you have been involved in an accident or have questions about the legal procedures following a vehicular collision, reach out to a Jackson, MS car accident lawyer for answers. At Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, our firm is ready to address questions regarding the legal implications of accidents that occur in of today’s transportation climate.
Pandemic-Impacted Driving Statistics
Over the past two to three years, our nation has seen sizeable changes in transportation patterns. Various fluctuations have been observed during the initial response to COVID-19, during subsequent efforts to minimize virus spread, during periods of falling case numbers, and during the rise of infection rates with the introduction of the Delta strain.
It is important to note that all information currently available is limited. Future transportation patterns of a post-pandemic environment will take several years to fully materialize. But the information available can help us better understand the situation in which we currently live, function, consume, work, interact, and drive. The following facts and statistics shed light on the current conditions of the United States transportation system:
- With an estimated 38,680 fatalities, 2020 saw the highest number of highway deaths in more than a decade, since 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- Research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed that total vehicle miles traveled in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles (a 13.2% decrease), yet fatalities increased by 7.2% from 2019.
- NHTSA’s report analysis showed that impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt were the top three behaviors contributing to the high fatality rate.
- According to a report by TRIP, by April 2020, there was a 40% decrease in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), an 80% decrease in public transit use, and a 95% decrease in airline travel. By March 2021, national VMT numbers had returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 15 states reporting numbers higher than the previous norm.
- Since 2019, rush-hour traffic congestion in large cities has lessened, while midday traffic and highway travel has spiked nationally.
The Problem of Reckless Driving
Local police agencies across the country have overwhelmingly reported increased incidences of speeding, abrupt lane changes, swerving, cutting off other drivers, lack of turn signals, and other reckless driving behaviors. Anecdotally, driving conditions seem to have worsened since the onset of the pandemic. And systematic research has consistently supported what many drivers have observed.
The research conducted by the NHTSA suggests that throughout the pandemic and resultant lockdowns, driving behaviors changed significantly. While large numbers of individuals refrained from driving, those who did take to the roads engaged in risky activities in higher numbers. The predominant unsafe driving behaviors identified through research included speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Evidence showed that more people involved in crashes failed to use their seat belts. Furthermore, average driving speeds increased during 2020, and instances of extreme speeds were more frequently observed.
Looking to the Future
There are certainly multiple factors at play in these facts concerning reckless driving during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigation still continues, as researchers aim to gather definitive data that can be used to make transportation safer and more effective in the future.
Some issues relating to the rash of dangerous driving behaviors have been discussed. One contributing factor is the decreased number of cars on the road, which can make some drivers more prone to drive irresponsibly. Decreased in-office work hours can lead to more daytime driving excursions. An unwillingness to use public transportation, and fewer available public transportation options, make some people more inclined to take car trips. Both long-distance road tripping and substance abuse became more widespread in the wake of the pandemic.
Researchers continue to make projections about how the future of transportation will be shaped by the effects of COVID-19. Optimists are positive about the benefits that can evolve, and encourage government investment in transportation systems that will be safest and most beneficial to communities. Issues such as these have become hot discussion topics in recent months:
- The positive impact of reduced traffic congestion
- Virtual conferencing and meeting options reducing business travel
- Company cost-reduction by having employees work from home
- Growing e-commerce and online business
- Expanding telehealth opportunities
- Higher numbers of students receiving education online
- Money saved on gas, parking, taxes, and tolls when working remotely
- The current condition of national highway systems built several decades ago
- Continued dispersal of populations from high-density to low-density communities
From our position as Jackson, MS car accident attorneys, we hope that an increased awareness of the prevalence and danger of reckless driving will lead to safer roads for all of Mississippi’s residents. Our state already had the second-highest rate in the nation for car accidents deaths per 100,000 population—21.6—as of the year 2019.
Gain the Expertise of a Jackson, MS Car Accident Lawyer
At Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we are committed to remaining at the forefront of evolving research and data so that we can best represent our clients. To us, education and awareness is important, and we see our role as personal injury attorneys as an opportunity to make things better. If you have been involved in a collision with a reckless driver, we invite you to reach out to our office today so we can begin to help you with your car accident claim.