The lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to shutter and people to work from home, leaving highways relatively empty since March.
But across the country, the rate of road fatalities has climbed even as we’re driving less, leading some experts to sound alarms and search for reasons.
PennDOT officials caution not to read much into its preliminary data, but crash stats from
“Fatalities are lower, but not as low as they should be,” said
While some, including Kolosh, say it’s too early to determine the root cause behind the growing number of road deaths, others have pinned the trend on speeding. With little traffic to contend with, drivers have responded by driving faster. Experts have long warned that high speeds can exacerbate crashes by making them deadlier.
Fatality rates grew as traffic decreased
Starting in mid-March, Pennsylvanians began to scale back their travel. Some businesses closed while others had employees work from home. Schools switched to virtual lessons, and Gov.
Between March, April and May -- the most recent months of preliminary crash data available -- motorists traveled about 8.4 billion miles less in
PennDOT officials say they have taken no action over the data, saying it still needs to be vetted for accuracy and represents a small sample size. On the whole, fewer people have died in crashes since the pandemic started thanks to a significant drop in crash deaths during April, said Jennifer Kuntch, PennDOT’s deputy communications director.
“At this time we cannot validate that all the police reports have been submitted and not all the ones that were submitted have been reviewed for accuracy. There are significant variables that factor into this type of assessment and there are still too many outstanding concerns at this point. Therefore, performing this assessment now would not provide accurate data that could easily be compared to past years,” she said.
Alarms over speeding
That hasn’t stopped other experts from raising alarm bells over the trend, which has shown up in other states and countries, though at different levels.
INRIX, a tech company that collects cellphone data to analyze traffic patterns from around the globe, quickly noticed that drivers everywhere were going faster as the highways emptied. In April, the company found speeds jumped on
“We were really hopeful we would see a decrease in the number of deaths,” Hanson said. “What we in fact saw was the exact opposite.”
The trend has played out across the country, said
“This has not been like a normal recession,” Harkey said. “You expected to see a drop in that mortality rate, but this has been very different.”
In April, state police issued 103 tickets for going 100 mph or faster, a 39.7% decrease from
“We didn’t see it as much in this state compared to others,” Miller said.
For over 20 years, speeding has been a factor in about 30% of the country’s fatal crashes, according to the
High speeds limit drivers’ reaction times, increase the distance it takes for a vehicle to stop and reduce the effectiveness of safety devices, according to the
In general, roads with cars traveling at higher speeds see more crashes, and crashes at higher speeds tend to produce more serious injuries, according to the
Morning Call reporter
PA. PANDEMIC CRASH STATS
PennDOT released these figures to the
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