One of the most noticeable effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the sudden drop in traffic on Massachusetts’s roadways. Anyone who has had to go out to work essential jobs or get groceries has clearly seen how open and empty our freeways have become. Sadly, these clear roadways have not led to safer roads or a reduction in car accidents.
Less Congestion, More Fatalities
During the initial stages of Massachusetts’s Stay-at-Home Order, the commonwealth saw a massive drop in traffic by approximately 50%. One would assume that this would lead to a similar drop in car crashes, however, data from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) suggests an inverse occurred. In the month of April, 28 people were killed in crashes, as compared to 27 last year, when traffic was double.
As seen in other states like Illinois, California, and New York, traffic fatalities have risen when traffic congestion drops. This is largely due to the fact that drivers have fewer restrictions on speeding and driving recklessly. During rush hour, heavy traffic reduces drivers’ overall speed, but when roadways are empty, drivers are more likely to drive faster. In most cases, these dangerous practices lead to single-vehicle accidents, but pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk. Many individuals are attempting to maintain six-foot distances between each other, which many require drivers to wait longer at crosswalks before turning. Those who do not have the patience for this can end up causing catastrophic pedestrian accidents.
The Slow Return to Normalcy
As Boston and the rest of Massachusetts slowly begin to re-open, traffic is climbing across the commonwealth. Paying close attention to Boston, one can see a steady rise in traffic at major turnpikes and roadways, such as the Southeast Expressway, according to the Boston Globe. This trend has also been noted by INRIX, a Seattle-based data analysis company, that showcased the trend with a heatmap. By comparing traffic congestion rates between March and June, INRIX allows researchers to visualize how COVID-19 impacted roadways alongside how re-opening has allowed traffic congestion to return to normal.
Ultimately, return to pre-COVID traffic rates are to be expected, but with them, we may see a shift in accident rates. With more cars on the road, drivers can expect to experience more accidents on their daily commute, though at lower speeds. Congestion in Boston may lead to higher rates of rear-end accidents but a drop in fatal single-vehicle accidents over time, although this may all shift if re-opening is delayed.
Responses from Government Officials
While the risk of a serious auto collision is always to be expected when on Boston’s roadways, it is not an either/or situation. MassDOT, as well as local Boston agencies and non-profits, have long been advocating for changes to Boston’s roadways in order to make it safer for everyone. Like many other major cities in the United States, the city is pushing towards a “Zero Deaths Vision” wherein there are zero fatalities on Boston’s roadways each year. This is but one element of the Massachusetts Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which is being implemented to reduce the number of fatalities by 12% over five years.
This large-scale plan also includes the 2019 Massachusetts Pedestrian Transportation Plan and 2019 Massachusetts Bicycle Transportation Plan, both of which are designed to make Boston and other Massachusetts cities safer for pedestrians and cyclists. While we may not see the effects of these programs immediately, there is a concerted effort for MassDOT to work with local non-profits and educational programs to maximize the safety of all Massachusetts residents.
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What to Do If You Are Hit by a Reckless Driver
Now more than ever is the time for safety. Residents of Boston should not only follow all the advice of public health officials to avoid contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others, but also continue to follow all road safety laws. Violations of these laws can not only lead to significant fines in a worsening economy, but also devastating vehicle collisions.
If the worst-case scenario should happen and you are struck by a reckless driver, then do not hesitate to contact the Boston car accident lawyers at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. Our legal team is dedicated to serving the residents of Boston, Burlington, and Methuen, from filing detailed car accident claims to advocating in trial for proper compensation. Our founding attorney Christopher DiBella has an extensive history of success representing injured residents after catastrophic events. Call us at (617) 870-0907 to learn how we can help you.