By on April 9, 2020

2019 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE interior

It’s hard to peruse local headlines these days without stumbling across a post or two detailing recent speeding infractions, with the ticketed drivers apparently taking advantage of traffic-free roads and bargain basement gas to see what dad’s Accord can really do.

It makes sense that some drivers would see a pandemic as an opportunity. Generally, vastly fewer vehicles on the roads leads to fewer deaths on those roads, but that’s definitely not true everywhere.

Take two states as an example. One, Michigan, has driving in its DNA. Interstates aplenty, the home of the Motor City is built on a foundation of cars. According to a spokesperson for the state’s Traffic Crash Reporting Unit, roadway fatalities were down by 30 in the month of March, The Detroit News reports.

That’s the same month the state, and especially the coronavirus hot spot of metro Detroit, went into lockdown to slow the virus’ spread. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order on March 23rd. Year to date, the number of traffic fatalities in Michigan is down 168.

The other side of the coin is Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Walz issued a stay-at-home order affecting businesses on March 16th, later tightening those restrictions. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, fatal crashes in the state doubled after social distancing measures emptied streets and freeways.

“Traffic may be reduced on Minnesota roads during this challenging time, but the number of road fatalities is rising,” the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety said in a statement.

Traffic fatalities between March 16th and Tuesday numbered 24, compared to last year’s 12 and 2018’s 13. The Traffic Office stated that half of the fatalities recorded since the lockdown date could be traced to speeding or reckless driving.

While driving fatalities have spiked, you can’t place the blame for the state’s roadway woes on the bottle. Impaired driving arrests in Minnesota have fallen to nearly a third of the pre-pandemic tally.

[Image: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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52 Comments on “Traffic Deaths in the Age of COVID-19 Run the Gamut...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Well…. I just got an email from USAA saying that they’re giving all their members a break in car insurance (20% of two months of premiums) since their auto accident claims are way down right now.

    Logically, I’m wondering what the other major insurers are looking at or about to do.

    In unrelated-yet-related news, apparently there’s yet a new Cannonball Run record, one that bested the most recent record from this past November.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I saw the new Cannonball Run record. The roads are empty so they took advantage of it. Not surprising. However still stupid and all kinds of irresponsible.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      USSA was WAY more expensive than my current insurance when I priced… So, may be they charge more upfront?

    • 0 avatar
      Schurkey

      Maybe the criminals at USAA will actually pay my claim, that they’ve been ignoring for over two years.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Please don’t hold your breath .

        I’ve been screwed repeatedly even when the offender admitted guilt .

        I’ve had good luck with Farmers, they didn’t give us any Okey-Doke when the Foster boy burned our house down and recently when a druggies basjed my three day old trucklet, they worked with me to pay 2/3 of the co$t of repairs , I don’t have collision on my vehicles .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Jesus, Nate, every time you tell one of your life stories I get an anxiety attack :(

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            _Don’t_ ~ that’s not their point, the point is to remind you how badly things can go before you even *think* “oh, Shi…..” so you’ll have a happier and easier life .

            that’s what true Conservatism is all about, not living in fear, lying, cheating, stealing and dragging the ladder up behind you .

            I’m still here, have no worries, if I die it’s no big deal no one will remember me longer than a few days .

            I’ve barely touched the surface, when I look back I wonder how I’m still alive .

            On a more positive note : it looks like I’ll be buying back a small Motocycle from a guy I gave it to last year, he got it running and did lots of repairs on it, even a new seat, tires, tubes and battery…. .

            I can hardly wait to get some two wheeled therapy going =8-) .

            Apparently I no longer enjoy riding my old ’74 BMW R60/6, I guess I’ll sell it on when the panic goes down .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    Fred

    A Porsche Gemballa taking advantage of no traffic in NYC. https://sports.yahoo.com/porsche-based-gemballa-mirage-gt-170700530.html

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Roads in the age of COVID definitely have a little bit of a Road Warrior vibe to them.

    Dan Neil got into the act:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/flying-down-empty-roads-in-ferraris-f8-tributo-11585972859

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Well, the lack of traffic certainly encourages moving at a higher rate of speed. It certainly did for me. I managed to drive into NYC in 45 minutes door to door in the morning. Normally that would be a 1:15 minute drive at 5:30 AM start time. I did the “45” leaving at 7:30 AM. NYPD did start putting out police cars to act as a deterrent. But who is going to risk the virus to take a license from a person?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In Ontario employers are issuing letters to employees stating that they are ‘essential workers’. These letters are to be presented to the police if the worker is stopped.

    Non essential traffic and travel is now required to be kept to a minimum.

    Hopefully to reduce the need to for ambulance and hospital staff to deal with traffic victims.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      BC, as far as I know hasn’t ordered drivers to be stopped and checked to see if they are essential services. I have an essential services “icon” on my ID badge so I’m not restricted anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      cprescott

      I live in Virginia – quickly becoming the People’s Republic of Virginia thanks to those fleeing the North – and my employer gave me a letter similarly stating I was an essential worker.

      Based upon the one trip I took over 20 miles this past weekend, fewer cars does not mean safer roads. There were plenty of fools going above speed limit and taking my life in their hands. I was hoping a few would be culled just for the karma payback.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        BIG TIME ~ some ASSHOLE on the harbor freeway in a pickup truck decided to merge into my lane this afternoon, didn’t look in his mirror, no turn signal and ignored my blaring the horns at him…. had I no slowed down we’d have had s serious wreck .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    gasser

    Great piece in Fox News a few days ago about the increase in California CHP tickets to speeders in excess of 100 mph. One Bay Area ticket issued for 117 mph in a 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Who needs fancy European sports sedans??

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I cannot lie – an open road, especially one that is usually clotted with traffic, is a temptation that I can’t resist. However, speeding is relative. I was knocking on 80, but typically 70-75. Imagine that when typical traffic speed is about 25. Anything more than that on the type of urban highway would be reckless.

      This is all so surreal. Roads with 5% of the normal traffic load during peak hours. I never thought I’d ever see it.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    What is wrong with people? Out here in the wilderness of California no cops or sheriffs anywhere. When I get to town the hardware stores are full. People doing projects as normal. Car parts stores are full. Grocery stores are full. The only difference is that the paper towel and toilet paper isles are not full. And that’s only because of those galldang city slicker flat landers* gettin suckered by… fill in the blanks with whatever makes you feel better.
    People are actually complying with stay at home “orders”? Yer kidding me right?
    * who are obviously full of shxx…. oh god this is all soooo funny. Especially when all is said and done in 4 months it will be painfully obvious this is just another flu.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “in 4 months it will be painfully obvious this is just another flu.”

      http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2020/04/09/inside-detroit-hospital-sinai-grace-war-zone/5122651002/

      “All three coolers are filled, the morgue and the viewing room next to the morgue are full and right now, we’re taking bodies to the sleep lab to store them,” he said. “We initially had to double bag each patient, but we started to run out of body bags and began scrambling floor-to-floor to find places to take them.”

      so stick it up your @$$.

      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        This is going to be extremely regional I believe. Where I live the number of hospitalizations has only been slightly higher than the flu/pnemonia season. However, this is possible in part due to stay at home orders. Our region would probably be in a similar situation as Detroit if those orders weren’t in place.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          @JimZ and @Daniel J, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this by people who really know what they’re talking about (which pretty much excludes both the mainstream media, cable news, and the paranoia/politically-way-off-center faux news websites that litter social media… anyhoo…) and it is really, really complicated. I agree that it is shaping up to be very regional (as outbreaks tend to be when they get contained), but I don’t think it’s as simple as the behavior patterns of the local population (although that can make or break it). A lot of the data out there is still very uncertain and the smartest people working on this don’t yet understand all of the variables.

          Anyway, TTAC is one of the last places I’m looking to learn something new about the ‘Rona, unless it’s something that is car-related. But I did want to acknowledge both of your comments and add that the best way I can describe this is that I think it’s a very, very complicated problem.

          Stay safe and stay healthy! This is my favorite place to go for all things car-related. I need all you guys to stick around so I can read future articles and all of your comments!

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Where I live the number of hospitalizations has only been slightly higher than the flu/pnemonia season.”

          well, if those idiot pastors keep going “what-EVA, I do what I want!” and telling their congregations they’d better get their butts in church, then that may change.

          or they can just be like all those drooling morons who give Kenneth Copeland all of their money so he can “command” the virus to go away.

          • 0 avatar
            Daniel J

            At least where I live, churches can’t have 10 or more in them and everyone has to be 6 feet away.

            I know early on a few counties became hot spots because of several ongoing funerals and the attendees were not practicing social distancing during those funerals.

          • 0 avatar
            RHD

            Religion is big money, and tax-free.
            You can’t fill the collection basket if the pews aren’t full.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It is very complicated all the more reason to be extra cautious. I live in a rural county of 50K people, this whole thing hit home with me yesterday when it was announced that the cases in my county doubled in one day to 50

            I think the dumbest thing anyone can think is that this only happens in far away places like Italy or New York City

    • 0 avatar
      swester

      “What is wrong with people?”

      When I read exceedingly ignorant comments like yours, I wonder the same thing.

      I already know multiple people in my close network who have lost relatives and close friends from COVID-19 complications. I wonder if you’ll change your tune if and when it happens to someone you know.

      The sad part is that, once the worst of it passes, misinformed folks like yourself will continue to assume it was all an over-reaction. In reality, the properly educated among us understand that it was precisely the “over-reaction” that prevented this from becoming an even greater catastrophe. Imagine how frustrating it is to be right and to realize that stupider people will never understand what you did to save their lives.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        @ Swester :

        My initial reaction was ‘no, he’s just _ignorant_ and you know there’s a big difference’ .

        Then I remembered , I’m not educated by any means and I was raised in an alt right backwoods hate & fear filled environment and realized, you’re right =8-) .

        That some people _choose_ to be ignorant and afraid amazes me .

        The hate comes from always being afraid .

        -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The Chinese CCP could have shut down all international flights after they blockaded Wuhan on Jan 25th. They elected not too. What does that say about them?

        …and they knew what they were dealing with as there are now reports they were first aware in mid-December of an unusual issue. Dr. Li Wenliang even tried to draw attention to a cluster of what is now COVID-19 patients in December and was threatened by the authorities. Up until Jan 25th, I’m inclined to believe it was incompetence and indecision on the part of a lot of people that led to the need for a blockade. But after they clearly knew it was bad enough to seal off Wuhan, they ***still*** did not order all flights to cease in say 48 hours.

        “Chinese police had targeted Li for “spreading rumours” in late December 2019 after he posted a warning on social media about a cluster of cases of a flu-like disease that had been treated at his hospital.

        Seven patients were in quarantine and the disease symptoms reminded him of Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), he said. He urged colleagues to wear protective clothing at work.

        Four days later he was summoned to the local public security bureau, accused of “making false comments” and disturbing the social order. He was told that if he continued to talk about the disease, he would be “brought to justice”.

        Li was one of eight people authorities targeted for “sharing false information”, in a heavy-handed approach that China’s supreme court later criticised. He agreed not to discuss his concerns in public again.”

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/06/whistleblower-chinese-doctor-dies-from-coronavirus

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          Yes, and when the dust settles hopefully China gets its d*** slammed by the greater international community. Not likely, but we can hope. But the building is on fire and we need to put it out. We can go after who set the fire after that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      In New York city their paramedics usually respond to roughly 26 “in home” deaths per day. Currently those numbers are around 200 per day. Those deaths hadn’t been included in COVID-19 death stats since they weren’t confirmed cases.

      “4 months it will be painfully obvious this is just another flu”

      Corona virus’s are different than influenza virus’s. “Flu” is short for influenza. Those in New York, or Italy or Spain would disagree with your ignorant assertion!

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        They’re burying bodies in ground now, say they’ll dig them up later when things slow down .

        But, you go right ahead and think this is just the flu….

        My plan is to go riding before I catch it in this jam packed city of Los Angeles .

        -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “What is wrong with people?”

      Short answer is, a lot. I suspect we’re going to get a nice view into humanity in the 21st Century in the next nine weeks.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        @ 28-cars-later :

        Yeah well, commies , what do you excpect ? .

        Sadly too few Americans have ever spent any time in any dictatorship much less a communist country, if they had they’d be *much* wiser about their freedoms here along with truth, facts and science .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    It was the other day that I saw an Infinti QX50 going ~60-70mph in a 30 zone.

    I got to take the Mustang out today – had to drop my poor sick cat off at the vets – but I didn’t hoon it too much. I’m still on winter tires and don’t like to remove too much rubber off of them!

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Usually I have to pick a spot to merge into when I get onto the highway that leads from my town to the city. The issue is exacerbated by the facts that the speed limit increases from 60 Km/h to 100 Km/h at the same place; and that everyone gets his or her hoon on at that precise point. I could merge now with eyes closed. At a guess I’d peg the traffic at a tenth of its previous volume. As regards speeding, the lack of traffic makes no difference to me: all of the parts in my car and truck were supplied by the lowest bidder, just as before ( other than the parts I’ve replaced ).

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    When the roads are empty, there is a higher probability that the vehicle you see is a traffic cop. Back in the days of 55, a guy was driving at a pre-55 speed late at night on a lonely Texas highway. He saw another car approaching but thought nothing of it. Sure enough, it was a cop who gave him a speeding ticket.

    The other thing I’ve learned to beware of is empty streets with absurdly low speed limits. Even if they are a convenient short cut, you are better off avoiding them. Enforcement tends to be heavy. The signs aren’t there to promote safety. They are to discourage unnecessary travel by making it less convenient than using major streets.

  • avatar
    FlimFlamMan

    I commute from the outskirts of Atlanta into downtown (“essential worker”). What is normally an hour commute, is only 25 minutes at this time. 80 MPH almost all the way in. State Patrol is present throughout, but that isn’t stopping some folks from hitting triple digits.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I see the same thing. Louisville normally doesn’t have hellish traffic except in the areas of the major freeway exits (the genius that said that 65/64/71 should meet in one spot next to two bridges and downtown deserves a To Stupid to Live award) but for the past few weeks, all traffic maps have been in the green. I am also essential staff, but only have to go in when something systems related goes down, and normally slow moving Louisville drivers have been picking up the pace. 85+ on 264 is not uncommon in the morning! I don’t see too many of the silver Escapes and Tauruses cruising the freeways, but they are out in full force in the neighborhoods. I’m all for that because there are still a lot of people walking and biking instead of driving (I’m one of them) and having crazy drivers tearing through neighborhoods needs to be stopped.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Being a Minnesota resident who is still commuting to work every day, I haven’t noticed this. But statistics don’t lie. Wondering if this is a rural, metropolitan or both thing.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Just order total lock down, forever. Traffic death problem solved

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    The last speeding ticket I got, back in 1987, was driving into work on a President’s Day holiday. I wasn’t going any faster on the road than normal (say, seven to ten mph above the limit), but I was all alone on the road rather than with a group of cars, so I stood out.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    It’s Friday morning and I hit the freeway, watch idiots going faster than usual in the pouring rain, one flies off the freeway and through a cinder block retaining wall .

    This truly _is_ the Land Of Fruits, Nuts & Flakes .

    If you’re working the graveyard shift or don’t sleep much, just listen to the traffic news or P.D. radio scanner ~ less collisions, all at *much* higher speeds with far worse results .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Traffic crimes aren’t the only criminal activity being affected. The link to The Associated Press is an interesting summary with data from around the world.

    https://apnews.com/bbb7adc88d3fa067c5c1b5c72a1a8aa6

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    I was taking the car out for a semi-weekly run last night at around 9pm in Seattle. I was going 85 on the right lane, then three Italian sports cars zoomed past me together on the HOV lane. I think they were Lambos – I honestly couldn’t tell because they went by really fast.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Speaking of crashes…..

    Saturday I went to get covid-19 tested and after words I was driving South on the Harbor Freeway and where the i5 exit is, two cars were smashed to – gether against the left guardrail ~ it’s a sharp curve that’s also blind, these two idiots managed to crash and completely block a two lane exit ramp _BEFORE_ the curve….

    Special cases I think they were .

    About the insurance reductions : my company, Farmers sent me an E-mail telling me that they’re going to reduce the monthly payment by 25 % ~ yippie .

    Oh, wait : paying monthly means a big service charge so they’re not really giving you much back if anything .

    I always pay my bills in full as they come in so I never pay interest / service nor carrying charges, basic how to live when you’re broke stuff IMO , of course I just sent them checks for my cars, Motocycle and house & earthquake coverage so fuck me I guess =8-^ .

    Lastly, not all churches / religions are crooked .

    Many and quite possibly most but I have also known many who were not and helped people instead of bleeding them dry by tithe and endless TV marathons telling you “if you don’t send me $ right now I’ll die, GOD told me so !” .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    dal20402

    There are a couple of a$shats with modified Volvo wagons in my neighborhood. They regularly pass my house (on a neighborhood street, speed limit 25) going 50+ mph. Before the virus, they did this only on sunny Sundays. Now they’re out tearing it up every single day. Just hope I’m not trying to cross the street with my kids when they come around the blind corner up the block.

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