Some might see less traffic and think less danger. But in Chicago, roadways can actually be more deadly when a pandemic keeps the safer drivers at home.
Governments around the country asked people to do their part in limiting trips into public this year. The first noticeable result was that the number of traffic fatalities decreased. While that is a positive, those that did venture out contributed to a 30% spike in the death rate of drivers.
Even with 26% less nationwide traffic and around 300 fewer deaths than last year, the number of fatalities to miles driven jumped this summer. The drastic change in numbers could be because of the type of drivers that were still willing to hit the roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Those likely to avoid risky behavior stayed away, while a more adventurous demographic still took to the streets.
Chicago saw an uptick in speeding thanks to the lack of congestion in the spring, but it looks like the fast pace wasn’t the only issue. Drivers appear to couple high speeds with not wearing seatbelts and driving under the influence in increasing numbers.
At the same time traffic thinned, Chicago was cutting back on the enforcement of minor traffic laws. This could have further encouraged dangerous behaviors as police avoided traffic stops to reduce potentially spreading the virus.
While Chicago took steps to curb the spread of the COVID-19, the regulations had some unintended consequences. The roads became more dangerous for those that did have to travel. And in the event of another shutdown, the trend could continue into the ever-dangerous winter months.