Apr. 21--The state's stay-at-home order is having some "unintended impacts" on the state's roads and highways, an updated study from UC Davis Road Ecology Center found.
With California highways the emptiest they've ever been, traffic accidents have dropped by more than half, saving the state an estimated $1 billion.
But with fewer people on the road and wide open highways in some parts of the state, drivers pushing triple-digit speeds has jumped.
According to data released by the California Highway Patrol, citations for speeding over 100 mph have spiked during the shutdown. Between March 19 and March 29, CHP officers have issued 543 citations for speeds over 100 mph statewide, nearly a 30 percent increase.
In comparison, for that same time period in 2019, there were 419 speeding infractions.
"Enforcement hasn't changed as a result of the lockdown," said Officer Greg Zumstein, spokesman for the CHP's North Sacramento office. "We're still out there making stops."
The data shows speeding in general has not increased during the lockdown, with overall speeding infractions still much lower than the same time period last year.
"There's still people going to work, people are still behaving the way they're supposed to be behaving -- there's just more noticeable higher speeds," he said.
Traffic volumes have dropped dramatically, according to the updated study from UCD's Road Ecology Center. And even though there are more citations for hitting 100 mph speeds, overall speeds only increased by an average of 1 to 4 mph on urban highways.
Perhaps, most notably, fewer cars on the roads have resulted in significantly fewer collisions, the study notes.
"Traffic accidents and crash-related injuries and deaths were reduced by half during the first three weeks of California's shelter-in-place order, which began March 20," the university said in a news release. "The reductions save the state an estimated $40 million per day -- about $1 billion over the time period."
The study notes that California traffic has decreased by as much as 55 percent on some highways, an unprecedented event for the state that boasts nearly 40 million people and 15 million registered cars.
The study, which using the CHP's incident reporting data, calculated the drop in collisions and fatal crashes saves the state $40 million per day in "property damage, treatment of injuries, lost time at work, emergency responses, insurance claims and the equivalent cost of a life," the study said.
The reduction in injuries and fatal crashes was evenly distributed across the state, the study said. In the Sacramento region, hospitals reported a 40 percent decrease in car and motorcycle trauma-injuries since the stay-at-home order took effect. Bicycle and pedestrian injuries also decreased by nearly 50 percent.
Crash-related injuries only spiked for a brief period after a wave of stormy weather hit Southern California. During that time, crashes returned to average levels, the study said.
Since then, however, injuries have continued to drop, showing the stay-at-home order has had a "profound effect" on travel statewide, the study said.
"The reduction in traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities is a bit of a silver lining for people who are staying at home and who are impacted by the pandemic," Fraser Shilling, the Road Ecology Center's director and the project's lead author, said in the news release.
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