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California Automobile Safety Study: COVID Impact on CA Roadways

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 has impacted several facets of modern life. In the state of California, these changes are most evident on the road. Socially responsible citizens have hung up their keys and stayed put, resulting in significant changes on Golden State streets.

But exactly how has COVID-19 affected auto safety?

A recent study compared accident figures in early 2020 to figures from the same timeframe in 2019. The results portray a dramatic change in some of the busiest streets in the nation.

The Effects of California Travel

The first noteworthy finding of the study was the decrease in logged miles on California State highways. At the start of February, traveled miles were on par with 2019. But by mid-March, everything changed.

California’s stay-at-home order caused a remarkable drop in miles traveled. Travel decreased by about a third compared to 2019. This change happened seemingly overnight and lasted for the better part of three months. By July, travel figures still didn’t recover to match 2019.

Car Crashes Decline

One positive effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was a steep decline in automobile accidents. With fewer vehicles on the road, California’s notorious gridlock was virtually non-existent. As a result, many drivers who did venture out during the stay-at-home period did so safely.

In fact, accident rates from March 19th to April 30th dropped as much as 75 percent!

This is a sharp decline from the start of the year. In early February, accidents were more common than in the same period in 2019. But, 2019’s weekly average of 600 was cut by more than half throughout March, April, and May of 2020.

Another positive effect was a decrease in DUI cases. Fewer people made the poor decision to drive under the influence. Like accidents overall, the start of 2020 saw a troubling increase in DUI-related accidents.

Thankfully, the lockdown resulted in a drop of 40 to 50 incidents per week. From March 19th through April 30th of 2020, there was a notable a decrease of almost 42 percent against 2019th’s figures.

A Worrying Trend in Speeding

Unfortunately, the findings weren’t all good news. Despite fewer accidents on the road, California Highway Patrol saw a large increase in speeding. CHP issued 46 percent more tickets for drivers speeding at or above 100 MPH.

This uptick in speeding likely correlates with the decrease in traffic. Fewer vehicles on the road gave drivers more opportunities to accelerate to unsafe speeds.

Not only did Californians receive more speeding incidents, but the study uncovered an unnerving connection to fatal accidents. Despite less traffic, the fatality rate remained unchanged. This fact is most evident in Los Angeles.

On average, a fatal accident occurs every 36 hours in the city of Los Angeles. By May of 2020, traffic was significantly lighter than normal. Yet, the frequency of fatal accidents was at the same level as in 2019.

Those figures show that driving was riskier for those that did venture out during the stay-at-home order. The unchanging fatality rates are thought to be a result of reckless behaviors from speeding drivers.

Overall, COVID-19’s impact on auto safety was a positive one. Prior to the lockdown, the Golden State was on track to have a truly devastating year for automobile accidents. While speeding occurrences did increase and make driving riskier, the overall number of incidents took a nosedive.

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