Traffic decrease during pandemic leads to drop in auto accidents

Updated: Apr. 25, 2020 at 7:05 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Since the Alabama Department of Public Health and Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on April 3, more people have been at home and off the roads than ever before.

“The governor issued a stay-at-home order. It is a law, it is a directive that she put out and you don’t need to be on the roadway unless you are engaging in any type of those essential activities,” said Alabama Law Enforcement Trooper Benjamin Carswell.

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, around Montgomery interstate traffic volume is down on some days by 50 to 55 percent since the stay at home order was issued. This is compared to traffic volumes in April of last year.

Fewer cars on the road has led to fewer traffic collisions this month.

According to Trooper-investigated statistics from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, in the first 17 days of April this year there were 921 crashes, 305 injuries, and 12 fatalities. That’s considerably less than the 1,609 crashes, 673 injuries and 25 fatalities in the first 17 days of April 2019.

Carswell said being that the month of April is not over yet, it’s really too soon to tell how much of an effect the coronavirus has had on our roadways, but that they have noticed a slight decrease in crashes. However, he said officers are still seeing crashes and fatalities despite fewer vehicles on the road.

"We want to see reduced crash numbers every year, however, that can be attributed to a lot of things," Carswell said. "It could be due to the fact that less people are out, however, we're still seeing traffic crashes with reduced cars on the roadway due to people staying at home and not having to travel to and from work."

Less cars on the road have also given drivers more opportunities to speed.

Carswell said regardless of how many cars are on the road people still need to obey traffic laws.

“Just because there is less traffic on the roadway doesn’t mean that you travel faster,” Carswell said. “You need to travel the speed limit that’s posted. Speed limits are posted on roadways for a reason based off of terrain, what the road’s designed for, line of sight, and other circumstances, so just because there is less cars than you might think doesn’t mean you can go above the posted speed limit or disregard rules of the road.”

Carswell said regardless of the change in the amount of traffic volume on our roads, people still to need to wear a seat belt, maintain an appropriate speed limit, and share the road.

“When you’re traveling in a vehicle, whether you are the driver or the passenger, it’s on everybody in that vehicle to ensure that the driver is focused on driving,” Carswell said. “There could be two cars out on the roadway or there could be one, and it can still result in a traffic crash that results in a fatality, so at the end of the day, when you are out on the roadway we want you to follow the rules of the road. Wear your seat belt, be aware, and if you see anything that needs to be addressed adjust your speed.”

The state of Alabama’s stay-at-home order is in effect until April 30.

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