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Has the Pandemic Affected How You Drive in Illinois?  

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Traffic Safety BlogLow traffic volume related to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in traffic accident related deaths.
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Studies show that the number of accidents in Illinois is on the rise despite less traffic on the roads due to COVID-19.

We all remember when Illinois Governor Pritzker gave the order to close the state during the pandemic.  Our normal day was upended.  For many people throughout Illinois, that meant no longer driving to work.

A commute to downtown Chicago that normally took over an hour could now be done in less than 30 minutes.  The roads were completely empty.  It was like having a private highway to wherever you wanted to go in or out of the city.

Congested traffic normally slows traffic speeds.  Studies show that low traffic volume related to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in traffic accident related deaths and an epidemic of speeding drivers.

Illinois Department of Transportation Data: Traffic Fatalities Trending Up

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), there were nearly a 16% more deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes in Illinois from 2019 to 2020. There were almost 1,200 fatalities over the course of the year. These Illinois traffic fatalities are the highest the state has seen in thirteen years. And sadly, it looks like this trend isn’t going away. As of August 12, 2021, the IDOT has reported a 6.1% increase in traffic fatalities in 2021.

Illinois Speeding Trends

As traffic volume decreased on the roadways due to COVID-19, the speed of drivers increased.  Now, as traffic volumes rise, it seems that many Illinois drivers continue to speed.  This trend is having a deadly effect in Illinois and across the nation.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Data: Traffic Fatalities on the Rise

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks motor vehicle collisions and deaths nationwide.  The NHTSA’s projections show increasing deaths during the third and fourth quarters of 2020 – coinciding with the point at which states began easing restrictions – when compared to the same time periods of 2019.

NHTSA Crash Data for 2020

Compared to 2019, 2020 saw 5% more deaths in both passenger vehicle occupants and cyclists and a 9% increase in motorcyclists deaths. The report also found that crashes increased the most on city interstates, up 15%, compared to 11% on rural county or local roadways.  Additionally, crashes involving non-Hispanic Black people increased the most, up 23%.

Fewer Cars, But Increased Crashes

The U.S. has seen over 7% more motor vehicle crashes last year despite fewer people being on the road due to the pandemic and restrictions imposed by states. The Federal Highway Administration reported a significant change in transportation usage. The number of miles traveled by cars, trucks, and motorcycles last year decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, representing a 13.2% decline.

US Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths in 2020

Despite the significant decline in traffic, the NHTSA reported that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020.  NHTSA’s analysis shows that the main behaviors driving an increase in deaths include impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt.

Drive Safely and Watch Your Speed

Driving safely on Chicago and Illinois roads should be our highest priority.  I hope this is a friendly reminder to drive safely and watch your speed.  Remember, the correct answer to “How Many MPH Can You Go Over the Speed Limit?” in Chicago and throughout the state is zero. Let’s all help reduce the number of accidents and injuries in Illinois going forward.

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