Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Causing an Increase in Reckless Driving?

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Due to the current pandemic, there has not been much traffic on the roads. This means fewer traffic delays and the frustrations that go along with it. Unfortunately, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the sparse traffic associated with the pandemic has caused an alarming spike in reckless driving behavior, including speeding, hard braking, and phone usage. This dangerous behavior can cause serious car accidents, particularly when motorists are traveling at a high speed. In addition to the injuries that these accidents cause, they also put police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders who are called to the scene at increased risk of exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). If someone is injured in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, they are urged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Examples of Reckless Driving During the Pandemic

Motorists should always make safe driving a top priority, but safety officials from the GHSA say that safe driving behavior is even more important now. Emergency rooms across the country are at capacity with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. Car accident victims put additional strain on health care workers who are already spread very thin. Motorists have a responsibility to obey the speed limit, fasten their seat belts, put their phones down, and keep their attention focused on the road ahead. The following are examples of reckless driving behavior that was reported recently across the country:

  • Police officers from Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska, and Utah clocked motorists driving over 100 miles per hour on the highway.
  • Florida and Iowa state police reported motorists driving up to 40 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.
  • States are finding reduced crash rates, but the crashes that occur are more serious.
  • State officials from Nevada and Rhode Island reported a rise in pedestrian
  • In Minnesota, the number of car accidents and fatalities have increased by over 50 percent compared to the same period in previous years. Approximately half of those fatalities were related to reckless driving behavior, such as speeding and negligent driving.

According to the GHSA, Americans have clearly demonstrated that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves and loved ones. The GHSA notes the need to communicate that same sense of urgency when it comes to driving and sharing the road with other motorists. Speeding is often overlooked as a serious safety issue, yet a 2019 report found that excessive vehicle speed is responsible for close to one-third of all fatal car accidents. The GHSA is partnering with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to develop a speed management pilot program that will combat this problem.

How is the Pandemic Impacting Driver Behavior?

Data company, Zendrive, collected millions of miles worth of driving data that analyzed how the pandemic impacted driving behavior. They collected behavioral data from the five weeks prior to the March 16 lockdown and compared it to the first five weeks of the lockdown to analyze changes in driving behavior. They found the following results:

  • There was a 27 percent increase in the number of drivers who exceeded the speed limit.
  • The number of drivers who used their cell phones while driving increased by 38 percent.
  • There was a 25 percent increase in hard braking.
  • The number of collisions per million miles increased by 20 percent.

Is the Coronavirus Changing the Way Police Officers Do Their Job?

Law enforcement officials have a responsibility to ensure that motorists obey the rules of the road. That means following the speed limit; avoiding distractions, such as phone calls and texts; and practicing safe driving habits. If a motorist is caught speeding, texting while driving, or driving aggressively, he or she may be pulled over by a police officer. However, every time a police officer makes a traffic stop, the officer could be exposed to someone with the virus.

As a result, many police departments are urging police officers to limit the number of traffic stops they make and stop motorists only if it is absolutely necessary. This does not mean that police officers will not be enforcing traffic laws, but they may be more lenient with speeding and minor traffic violations to exercise social distancing and reduce their risk of exposure. If the virus continues to spread, police departments will have to make adjustments based on what is in the best interest of public safety and the safety of the police officers.

Why Do Motorists Engage in Unsafe Driving Behavior?

Although most people are taking the appropriate steps to avoid exposure to COVID-19, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, not all motorists make safety a priority when they are behind the wheel. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, motorists need to understand that these behaviors can have serious consequences. The 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index showed that drivers in this country value safety, and they perceive aggressive driving, distracted driving, and drowsy driving as being dangerous. However, there is a disconnect between their attitudes and behavior. The survey data came from a sample of 2,714 licensed drivers aged 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The following are key statistics from the survey:

  • Fifty percent of participants who were involved in a recent crash said that they talked on the phone while driving within the past month versus 42 percent who were not involved in an accident.
  • Forty-three percent of participants involved in a recent crash said that they texted while driving within the past month versus 27 percent who were not involved in an accident.
  • Thirty-nine percent of participants that were in a recent crash admitted to driving through a red light in the past month versus 30 percent who were not involved in an accident.
  • Drivers considered drowsy driving and distracted driving to be very dangerous, yet these same drivers have texted while driving.
  • Drivers who were involved in a car accident in the past two years are at an increased risk of engaging in distracted driving behaviors.

The data suggests that motorists are not changing their behavior, even though their behavior caused them to be in an accident. AAA urges drivers to keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Put the phone away. To avoid being distracted by a phone call or a text notification, drivers should turn on airplane mode or activate the call/text blocking feature. Drivers should wait until they reach their destination before turning the message feature back on.
  • Obey the speed limit. Speeding causes serious accidents and potentially life-threatening injuries. Drivers should slow down and keep their attention focused on the road ahead.
  • Avoid drowsy driving. If a driver starts to feel drowsy when driving, they should pull over, get some fresh air or a bite to eat, or take a short nap. Drowsy driving can impact a driver’s reaction time, judgments, and vision. It can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
  • Do not drive impaired. If a driver has been drinking or using a substance that will lead to impaired driving, it is best to ask for a ride home or call a ridesharing service or taxi.
  • Always wear a seat belt. This is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in the event of a car accident.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Compensation for Victims of Reckless Driving Accidents

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident involving a reckless driver, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. These accidents are completely avoidable if motorists obey the rules of the road and make safety a priority. Failing to do so not only increases the risk of serious injuries, but could also expose the victims, first responders, and the health care providers who treat victims of COVID-19. Our dedicated legal team will investigate the details of the accident and ensure that the negligent party is held liable for your injuries. We will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.