Empty, Safe Streets? The data tells a different story.

Streets were cleared in late March and through May as the coronavirus outbreak shut down cities. With little traffic and most businesses closed, freeways and major thoroughfares were eerily empty. a cross country drive(opens in a new tab) Hit the record fast: less than 27 hours.

But instead of creating a peaceful and serene presence on America’s roadways, the unprecedented emptiness gave rise to dangerous driving behavior. It was in some ways less safe on the roads than before, and this is what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering.(opens in a new tab) In 2018 alone, 9,378 people were killed in speeding accidents.

Some telling data points come from Sansar this week, a sensor and analytics company that plugged in 500,000 vehicles (including some with AI dash cams) that saw a 20 percent increase in “severe speeds” during major pandemic shutdowns . Severe indicates that the driver is going more than 11 mph over the limit. Sensor data also recorded a 40 per cent increase in speed in cities. Looking at the five cities of Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco, the 20 percent increase nationwide in April was more than double.

Now that more vehicles are back on the road, dangerous speeding is returning to pre-COVID-19 levels. It is expected that it will return to its normal baseline.

The roads got cleared.
Credits: Sansar

But speeding increased.
Credits: Sansar

SAE International, an organization researching mobility and automotive safety standards, also cited the new coronavirus and shutdowns as affecting how we get around, such as how we almost stopped using public transport and how more people bought bicycles. The data also demonstrated that it was generally less safe on the roads.

While the number of car accidents went down with fewer cars on the road, last week an SAE International analysis(opens in a new tab) Annie Chang, head of New Mobility, and Luis Miranda-Moreno, associate professor at McGill University, found the severity of accidents increased, including fatal and injury accidents. Looking at data from New York City, the researchers found that the number of fatal accidents decreased during social distancing compared to non-fatal incidents. Serious crashes declined the most for pedestrians (-70 percent), followed by motorists (-60 percent), and then, cyclists (-50 percent).

See also:

Coronavirus outbreak to make self-driving cars more attractive

In Connecticut, the same Speeding World noted that it was in full effect: 90 percent more cars were going 15 mph over the speed limit. The state saw a 40 per cent increase in fatal accidents as compared to the same time period last year. Traffic volume was also half of normal.

hopefully slow roads(opens in a new tab)Such as those dedicated to pedestrians and bicycles during social distancing in New York City and California’s Bay Area may remain in place after drivers return to the streets.

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