Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Even as overall traffic levels fell over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of crashes and fatalities at work zones has risen, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Workers patching potholes, striping roads, directing traffic or building highways are more at risk than ever,” it states, “as drivers zoom through work zones or are preoccupied chatting or texting on their phones.”

These trend in spite of a steep reduction in vehicle miles traveled: 40% in April 2020 (compared to April 2019) and 26% in May, per federal data. The report goes on to state that work zone crews continue to deal with reckless motorists even as traffic volume resumes. It cites a series of instances in Michigan, in which “vehicles struck three county employees in a state contractor” over the course of a single week, killing two of those victims. Pew stresses that motorists and passengers also suffer the consequences of reckless driving, noting that of the 672 fatal work zone crashes with 755 deaths in 2018, only 124 of those deaths were among the work zone crews. Of the 123,000 work zone crashes in 2018, it said, 45,000 people suffered injuries.

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A recent study by KPMG has concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic may permanently change driving habits in the United States, even after a vaccine is distributed and life otherwise returns to the way it was before the pandemic. According to a report on StreetsBlog, the study suggests that “traffic volumes probably aren’t going to climb much higher than the benchmark they’ve reached to date: just 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.” In the long term, this might result in as many as “270 billion fewer miles driven on our roadways each year,” and as many as 14 million cars permanently off the roads.

According to the KPMG study, the reduction in vehicle miles traveled would largely be due to overall shifts to remote work by people living in “corridors that were formerly travelled by wealthier, predominantly white white collar workers.” The study found that about 37% of jobs in the US “could be done remotely,” specifically identifying the following percentages of the following sectors that fall into that category: 100% of “computer and mathematical” jobs; 98% of “Education, training, and library” jobs; 97% of legal jobs; 88% of “business & financial ops” jobs; 87% of “Management” jobs; 76% of arts, entertainment, and media jobs; 65% of office and administrative support positions; 61% of architecture and engineering jobs; 54% of “life, physical, and social sciences” jobs; 37% of “community and social service” jobs; 25% of “personal care and service” jobs; 6% of “protective service” jobs; and 5% of healthcare practitioners.” The study goes on to note research showing that Chief Financial Officers at companies across the country might be planning to keep 10-15% of their workforces working remotely.

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Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this month show an increase in unsafe driving by young men. The data specifically shows an uptick in reckless behavior by motorists in rural areas of the country, as well as increased use of drugs and alcohol, after the Covid-19 pandemic began. These trends are part of a broader spike in motorist fatalities, even as there were fewer cars on the road amidst lockdowns and other travel restrictions.

According to a recent analysis by Car and Driver, the NHTSA began studying the role of drugs and alcohol in motorist fatalities in the fall of 2019, testing blood drawn in morgues or emergency rooms for alcohol and various narcotics. Over the course of the pandemic, the NHTSA determined that “the number of people who died who tested positive for alcohol went from 21.3 percent before March 16 to 26.9” by mid-July. Cannabinoids rose 21.4% to 31.2%, and opioids 7.6% to 12.9%. The data reveals that 64.7 percent of fatally injured motorists tested positive “for at least one active drug compared to 50. percent before the public health emergency began.” Men were found to be more likely to test positive than women, according to Car and Driver, and there were higher rates of positivity during the week than on weekends.

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New York City traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent report by NY1. The report notes that “traffic jams are a familiar sight again in the city,” and cites one traffic engineer’s estimation that “85 to 95 percent of car traffic has returned, and truck traffic is completely back to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

According to the traffic expert, Sam Schwartz, “There are long backups on the FDR Drive, the Long Island expressway. The BQE looks as bad as ever.” NY1 suggests this is an especially noteworthy figure given that a mere 15% of workers in the Manhattan have retured to their offices. Schwartz also notes that despite the return of drivers to the roads, many city residents “are not yet comfortable riding buses, the subways, and commuter railroads.”

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Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration show that traffic levels in the US have significant decreased over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. FHA data show specifically that driving has decreased “by 40% in April soon after the pandemic emerged” compared to the same period in 2019, according to Voice of America News. As drivers returned to the road, the total kilometers driven was only down 11% in July 2020 compared to July 2019. Meanwhile NHTSA data shows that during the second quarter of 2020, traffic volume fell 16% compared to the first six months of 2019.

According to VOA News, experts suggest these trends are beneficial for the environment. One researcher at the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the increase in cycling and other non-driving outdoor activities reduces their carbon footprints. The decrease in cars led to healthier air in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, famous for its smoggy skies. Still, the researcher suspects that as drivers return to the road, “cleaner air won’t last long.”

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, has released sobering data about US traffic deaths. According to NHTSA analyses, although traffic fatalities were down in the second quarter of 2020 compared to  the same period in 2019, the fatality rate itself has gone up. Specifically, overall traffic deaths have declined 3.3% (a total of 8,870 deaths), while the fatality rate has increased to 1.42 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, a jump of 30% over Q2 2019’s numbers.

As the NHTSA notes, the second quarter of 2020 was “the height of the Covid-19 public health emergency,” during which overall traffic volume in the US “decreased by more than 16% in the first six months of 2020.” The agency suggests that the increased fatality rate might mean that while there are fewer drivers on the road, the drivers who remain are taking more risks. The NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, James Owens, said in a statement: “Road safety is always our top priority, and while we are encouraged by today’s reports showing a continued decline in total fatalities in 2019 and into the first half of 2020, we are concerned by the trend since April showing an increased fatality rate… Now, more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same.  It’s irresponsible and illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, taking risks not only with one’s own life, but with the lives of others.”

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A new report by the New York Post describes a “boom” in bicycle ridership in New York City, with weekend riding up 57% compared to 2019. The city’s Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told city councilors in a Wednesday meeting that the city is “seeing a cycling boom,” with weekday ridership up as well, by 26%.

These figures were tabulated by automated bicycle counting devices in seven locations: “Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West and Kent Avenue protected bike lanes and five bridges: the Pulaski, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro.” One of those locations enjoyed especially an especially high increase in ridership, with the Pulaski Bridge—which connects Greenpoint in Brooklyn and Long Island City in Queens—marking more than 78% in increased weekend bike rides. The next highest increases were seen at Prospect Park West, the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge, and the Queensboro Bridge, which all recorded increases of more than 50%. The Kent Avenue Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, meanwhile, recorded increases of around 25%. Continue reading

New York’s roads might get a little bit safer this week—if state authorities let them. An executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 27, suspending the requirement for annual vehicle inspections, is set to expire on October 4th. If he restores the order, New Yorkers can continue to put off their annual inspections, as hundreds of thousands already have over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the March 27 order, New York’s auto repair shots “performed 739,000 fewer inspections… compared to the average over the same period the prior five years,” according to a recent report by the Democrat & Chronicle. State data shows this is about an 11% drop in inspections. Despite the order, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has urged drivers to get their cars inspected anyways, a spokesperson for the Department told the Democrat & Chronicle, “The DMV encourages New Yorkers to have their vehicles inspected if they are past due… The DMV is notifying customers who have an expired inspection or driver license that they are due for renewal and we are providing details on the ways in which they can renew.”

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A new post by the Emergency Safety Responder Institute details the under-appreciated danger of road debris, which studies found was “was a factor in a total of more than 200,000 police-reported crashes” between 2011 and 2014, “resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.” Road debris is defined as “any substance, material, or object that is foreign to the roadway environment,” and can be found in travel lanes as well as a road’s shoulder or median. While all roadway debris is dangerous, perhaps the most danger lies on highway debris, given that drivers traverse highways at higher speeds than on normal roads, giving them less time to react to foreign objects. Debris also poses a risk to roadway responders, the professionals and volunteers who remove debris from the roads.

According to the Emergency Safety Responder Institute, most debris-related roadway incidents are the fault of negligent drivers, though others are due to mechanical mishaps. The majority of such incidents are preventable, the post argues, citing AAA data showing that “two in three debris-related crashes result from items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance or an unsecured load.” Such items might include tires and wheels that come off the vehicle, cargo that becomes unsecured, and tow trailers that become detached and collide with other cars or trucks on the road, according to AAA’s research.

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As vehicles vanished from the roads during the last six months of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, traffic fatalities increased dramatically, according to preliminary research by the National Safety Council. The NSC found that there were 20% more traffic fatalities between January and June 2020 than January to June 2019, even as drivers drove 17% fewer miles during that same period. This death rate constitutes “the highest jump NSC has calculated for a six-month period since 1999,” according to a news release by the organization.

NSC data shows that when numerous states ended their strict quarantines in June 2020, the number of miles driven by US drivers was still 13% lower than in 2019. Still, “death rates and number of deaths both skyrocketed”: number of deaths by 17% in June, and the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 34.4%. What the NSC concludes from this data is that “the lack of traffic did not make the roads safer.” Distressingly, these spikes in traffic deaths follow a “leveling off and small declined in overall fatalities” that itself followed a steady increase in fatalities between 2015 and 2017.

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