With fewer cars on the road, police see increase in speeding, car crash fatalities

Some states have reported alarming speed increases, including a surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more


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By Nancy Perry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite fewer vehicles on the road due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, state highway safety officials are seeing a severe spike in speeding, reports the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Some states have reported alarming speed increases, including a surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.

The GHSA cites the following examples of the reckless driver behaviors reported recently:

A Wheeling police officer checks the speed of the vehicles in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, April 9, 2020.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A Wheeling police officer checks the speed of the vehicles in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, April 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
  • In Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska and Utah, police have clocked highway speeds of over 100 mph.
  • State police in Florida and Iowa are reporting drivers going 20 to 40 miles over the posted speed limit.
  • In New York City, the city's automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets citywide on March 27, nearly double the 12,672 tickets issued daily a month earlier. In Los Angeles, speeds are up by as much as 30% on some streets, prompting changes to traffic lights and pedestrian walk signals.
  • Some states are finding reduced crash rates but more serious crashes. In Massachusetts, the fatality rate for car crashes is rising, and in Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials note pedestrian fatalities are rising.
  • In Minnesota, motor vehicle crashes and fatalities have more than doubled compared to the same time period in previous years. Half those deaths were related to speeding or to careless or negligent driving.

While motor vehicle traffic is down, pedestrian and bicycle traffic is reported to have increased exponentially, making it even more critical for motorists to follow traffic safety laws.

“During the past two months, Americans nationwide have shown that we are all willing to do the right thing to protect ourselves and each other,” said Pam Shadel Fischer, GHSA’s Senior Director of External Engagement and Special Projects. “We must maintain that same sense of urgency when it comes to the road. Drivers need to respect the law and look out for other road users so that we can prevent the needless loss of life now and moving forward.”

A 2019 report on speeding by GHSA, “Speeding Away from Zero: Rethinking a Forgotten Traffic Safety Challenge,” highlights excessive vehicle speed as a persistent factor in nearly one-third of all motor vehicle-related fatalities, while a 2020 GHSA report on pedestrian fatalities finds that pedestrians now account for 17% of all traffic-related fatalities.

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