One effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic that may actually bring some good news is the fact that fewer cars and trucks on the road should result in fewer accidents. While financial concerns and difficult transitions in work and home life during shelter-in-place dominate our thoughts, can we accept a small comfort in lowered risk of auto accidents? Even with car accident numbers dropping, the results are still far from definitive as we still have miles to go (so to speak) in this crisis, some recent reporting does offer positive perspective.
In this article, we’re examining some of the specific results to lessened traffic and decreased accident rates by region. We’ll also look at some of the altered contributing factors impacting collisions, as well as examining some of the hot topics and misinformation circulating about traffic accidents in the news.
It’s an unprecedented time we are living through, and every day there is a vast amount of new coverage, updates, and opinions on the way life is changing and what these changes mean. At Thompson Law, we strive to be a resource for you in the midst of the current crisis. Our top priority is helping clients receive the treatment they need, and get the very best claim and case outcomes after serious accidents. As part of our passion to serve our clients well, we recognize and accept the responsibility of keeping people informed on developments in our industry that have wider impacts in the world. We hope that this information helps you to feel informed, to make the best choices for you and your loved ones, and to know that you have powerful resources on your side. Reach out, if there is anything we can do to assist you.
Area-Specific Impacts of Stay-at-Home on Traffic and Driving
Individual cities, states, regions, and countries have been analyzed for impact of traffic patterns and collision rates during the rise in adoption of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and various other public health measures aimed to fend off high infection rates. Industry, infrastructure, and government regulations have resulted in unique, area-specific outcomes, but the overwhelming, and somewhat unsurprising trend is clear – fewer cars on the road these days does mean fewer accidents.
San Francisco, California – The home of Silicon Valley, which famously boasts corporate headquarters such as Lyft, Facebook and Google, was hit hard by high infection rates relative to much of the United States. Quickly, these large companies and others worked toward increasing percentages of their workforces stationing at home. The city officially ordered shelter-in-place measures on March 16th, but even in the weeks before this date traffic patterns were already being affected. Traffic patterns in the city are measured by Inrix, a firm which reported downticks on nearly all Bay Area bridges and toll roads, as well as decreases on BART ridership. These declines have only become more pronounced since stronger quarantine measures went into effect.
Washington State – Seattle Business Magazine has taken a definitively positive stance on traffic updates since the onset of the coronavirus crisis, and for good reason. Fatal accidents in the state are down a shocking 100% and motor vehicle accidents in general have declined by 67% across the state. These year over year statistics have even more specific results when the area of consideration is narrowed to Seattle alone, where there was a 76% decrease in accidents, and Bellevue, where there was an 81% drop. Regional statistics in the state also showed that weekday accident decreases were the largest contributors to the overall drops.
Los Angeles, California – A city famously known for deadlocked traffic jams is also enjoying a reprieve as rush hour, and related accidents, have dramatically declined. The phenomenon has been shocking enough to drivers, that many are even breaking the law to video record their highway travels on their phone (this is an infraction in California code), sharing these videos with their friends and on social media in amazement. The change offers a striking perspective to any residents who are still driving – empty roadways mean people are not working, a sobering perspective. The freed-up freeways are also seeing an increase in driving speeds – about 27% faster. The city is grappling with a mixed experience as time spent sitting in traffic for city residents dropped in the hundreds of thousands of hours, which is a clear benefit, though the loss of jobs and increases in dangerous speeding temper the happier consequences.
China – The spread of the coronavirus (sudden acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2) in China occurred on a time frame somewhat ahead of the United States, so reporting on roadway impacts there are a bit further developed at this point. Regions of the country underwent famously drastic measures in quarantining high-infection areas of the population in efforts to “stop the spread” and “flatten the curve.” So few cars on the road in January and February of this year resulted in significant accident rate drops. Insurance carriers have been required to respond accordingly. Experts interviewed on the trends have reported major anticipated drops in claim numbers for the first quarter of 2020, but anticipate increases, particularly in buses, taxis, and other commercial vehicles as the nation returns to work.
New York, New York – New York City has become an epicenter of the crisis, not just in the United States, but globally as well. As early as March 19th in the crisis, when the case count was less than 4,000, the city had already experienced a 33% drop in accidents. At the start of April, the case count was over 45,000. As the city has gone under increasingly severe lockdown, and more and more residents fall ill, even fewer accidents are occurring. This statistical nosedive does not carry the same feeling of being and “upside” to our current situation in a city where the scope of the tragedy has become so severe.
Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex – Our local area may unfortunately just be at the beginning of the process of facing this epidemic. The curve increased just this week with 100 new cases Wednesday the 1st of April. As many DFW counties and cities issues shelter-in-place more preemptively than some, we have already experienced some of the same traffic impacts as other cities. But as the virus’ impact on our area continues to grow, much remains to be seen.
Impacts on Types and Severity of Accidents
Changes in traffic density will not be the only factors that result in very different reports from this period of time, other contributing factors to accidents are also changing. Drunk driving accidents may see a decline, as bars and restaurants have been closed or reduced to limited operations during the crisis. Health and stress related wrecks may also see a downtick, some experts postulate, as stressed or ill employees experience alleviated or lightened work responsibilities. These experts base this on the fact that recessions historically have seen decreased mortality rates as long commutes diminish, and heart attacks are less common. This epidemic brings its own stresses to financial, family, and health matters, so the trade off with the stress of “normal” life is still unclear.
On the other hand, bike accidents are already reported to be on the rise, particularly in urban environments, where bikes are an easier transition from cars for necessary errands, than in more sprawling parts of the country.
Speeding-related wrecks may also experience a proportional increase, as the fewer people left on the road take advantage of the open-feeling lanes and make risky decisions like red light running. Trucker daily drive-time limits have also been lifted during the national state of emergency. While this is only true for drivers transporting cargo or personnel deemed essential for coronavirus-fighting efforts, the scale of this crisis requires large supplies and many healthcare specialists. The result may be vast numbers of overworked and exhausted drivers causing accidents on the road in their fatigue or in their speed as they race to critical destinations.
Certainly, fewer fatalities, injuries, and damages due to roadway accidents is welcome news in these challenging times we are facing. What remains to be seen is how the disruption to our daily lives, in order to save lives, will impact our communities in the long-term.
Thompson Law is still fully open and operational in a work-from-home capacity for the safety of our clients, our employees, and our communities. We are still accepting new clients and working hard on our current clients’ claims and cases . If you have had the misfortune of suffering an accident during this time, or anytime in the last two years, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our passion is in fighting hard for our clients to get the injury treatment they need and the compensation they deserve. Reach out anytime 24/7 and see what Thompson Law can do for you.
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