Although the Covid-19 lockdowns led to huge reductions in traffic and fewer car crashes this spring, the crashes became deadlier in some cities as drivers sped on quieter roads. In New York City the ratio of fatal crashes to all collisions rose 167% in April from one year ago. The increase was 292% in Chicago and 65% in Boston.
The National Safety Council (NSC) said that even as traffic decreased across the United States, roads became more deadly. NSC said that the lockdown and reduced road congestion had created an “apparent open season on reckless driving.”
Although New York City crashes decreased 76% and fatal crashes decreased 35%, the number of fatal crashes per 1000 crashes increased from 1.2 per 1000 crashes to 3.2 per 1000 crashes. Data from INRIX, a traffic analytics company, shows speeds in New York City increased 44% from 28 miles per hour in April 2019 to 41 miles per hour in April 2020. Transportation Alternatives in New York City advocates for a change in street design. Wide streets attract fast driving. More streets should be closed for cars so that people can safely bike, walk and run.
As we look at the data about more fatal traffic crashes, we must remember that arriving somewhere safely is more important that arriving somewhere quickly. The data from during the pandemic highlights this fact– less traffic, fewer crashes, but higher speeds and a higher rate of fatal crashes. It is particularly important to keep this top of mind as schools are re-opening even though this year is anything but a routine back to school season. School systems’ plans vary from all-virtual, to part-time virtual, to complete in-person instruction. Please remember that schedules may have changed from what you have been accustomed to in previous years. With that in mind, here are some back to school safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
School Bus Safety
If you are driving, remember:
- Yellow flashing lights mean slow down because the bus is preparing to stop.
- Red flashing lights mean stop and wait at least 20 feet behind the bus. Stay stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the extend stop-arm is withdrawn and the bus starts to move.
- Even when lights are not flashing, watch for children. Be cautious as you back out of a driveway or drive through a neighborhood, school zone or bus stop.
Bicycles can be an easy and quick way to travel to school. Do these things to keep your bike ride safe:
- Always wear a correctly fitted helmet and securely fasten the chin strap.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic and follow traffic signs and signals.
- Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
- Never use electronics while riding.
It is likely your child will be a pedestrian at some point during the day. Remind them to:
- Use the sidewalk whenever possible. If there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
- When available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing.
- Everyone should watch the road, not their phones.
Remember to stay alert and be safe!