A recent survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, drivers drove more recklessly and spent more time driving. As an analysis by Streetsblog points out, that latter figure “partly explains” why the rate of fatalities per mile traveled increased during the pandemic, in addition to the number of fatalities overall.
As Streetsblog explains, populations who generally drive more safely— “into or past middle-age and also more likely to be female”—drove less during the pandemic. The drivers who spent more time on the roads, however, were those more likely to drive recklessly: “predominantly younger and male,” according to the study. At the same time, that second group was found to be more likely to: text while driving; drive above the speed limit; run red lights; “make aggressive lane changes”; forego seatbelts; and drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Specifically, the group of people who increased their time on the road during the pandemic drove at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on a residential street 51% more of the time; read a text 50% more of the time; purposefully ran a red light 45% more of the time; made an aggressive lane change 43% more of the time; drove without a seatbelt 21% more of the time; drove under the influence of alcohol 13% more of the time; and drove after using cannabis 13% more of the time.
In the group of people who didn’t drive more, those figures, respectively, were: 35% more likely to speed; 33% more likely to read a text; 25% more likely to intentionally run a red light; 20% more likely to aggressively change lanes; 12% more likely to not wear a seatbelt; 6% more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol; and 4% more likely to drive after using cannabis.
In a statement about the study, the Foundation’s executive director said: “Our research finds that higher-risk motorists accounted for a greater share of drivers during the pandemic than before it… Safety-minded individuals drove less, while many who increased their driving tended to engage in riskier behaviors behind the wheel.”