Have you commuted to work recently? Chances are you are unaware of the road conditions and traffic pattern changes that have occurred in the Greater Boston area due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 global health crisis has created quite the ripple effect of consequences from issues about our health, to our employment status, and even to the patterns of traffic in our region.
The stay-at-home orders that were instituted in the New England area in the spring by the various state governments has resulted in various trends related to traffic volume and safety, according to transportation experts.
What the Numbers Tell Us
According to WBUR online and research by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT), traffic in our local area has been cut almost in half since work-at-home orders were given in March. In Boston specifically, traffic has dropped by nearly 70%. This makes absolute sense since offices shifted to remote work, schools began distance learning, and entertainment/restaurants shuttered.
Sadly, all the numbers are not positive. Fatalities on our state’s roads doubled in the month of April alone. Keep in mind that April was also the month that the Distracted Driving legislation took effect. So what is causing the change in traffic safety?
The Potential Causes of Increase in Traffic Fatalities
Every vehicle accident happens under fairly unique circumstances including variables such as the road conditions, weather, speed, experience, drugs, alcohol, and the list could go on and on. Unfortunately, there are some key factors at play in the shifts in our traffic behaviors that are potentially causing some of these accidents whether fatal or not.
One key factor that is possible is a psychological one. The roads are less crowded and traffic no longer slows down our typical commute. Highway Administrator, Jonathan Gulliver hypothesized that the wide open roads and lack of traffic could be making some drivers feel like they can get to their destinations faster and thus speed could be an overriding factor in the increase in traffic accidents.
Another causal area to consider is the distraction of drivers by smartphones despite the new legislation requiring no handheld devices. Gulliver stated that the shift to no handheld devices happened at the same time that residents were adjusting to the stay-at-home orders. The need for information and the learning curve of shifting behaviors in the car may have gotten lost in the news cycles about the pandemic. It’s not that residents were not aware of the legislative changes, but rather in the larger scheme of things it was reprioritized in the minds of many.
As a local insurance carrier for life, home, and auto, we bring you this information with two goals in mind. First, as a reminder that while the roads may be a little less crowded, we all must stay vigilant, obey traffic laws, and stay alert behind the wheel. Secondly, we want to ensure the safety of our clients and others in our communities by encouraging the following of the distracted driving legislation. If you have questions about this legislation check out one of our previous blogs on the topic.