The pandemic sparked a deadly increase in speeding tickets that didn’t stop

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Motorists have stepped down during the pandemic and police are concerned as the roads are busy with the latter part of summer travel.

The latest data shows that the number of highway fatalities in 2020 was the highest in more than a decade, even though cars and trucks drove fewer miles during the pandemic.

“Summer is an incredibly dangerous time. And that culminates with Labor Day, that last hurray, ”said Pam Shadel Fischer of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Traffic data indicates higher death toll was linked to higher average speeds, more people on roads driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and a slight drop in port seat belt.

Motorists don’t seem to be slowing down.

“People are flying on the roads,” said the Maine State Police Corporal. Doug Cropper said of summer traffic on Interstate 95. “This is just ridiculous.”

Traffic tickets issued by the California Highway Patrol for speeding over 100 mph from January through June were almost double pre-pandemic levels, and the number of reckless driving tickets has also increased, officials said.

In New York State, the percentage of deaths for which speeding was the main cause and the total number of speeding tickets increased from January to June, compared to the year before the pandemic, officials said.

“The increase in speeding and aggressive driving continues to cause concern as we enter the heart of the holiday season and increased traffic on the freeways,” said Beau Duffy, spokesperson for New York State Police.

Speeding dates back to the early days of the pandemic.

With police distracted by civil disobedience and reducing routine stops for safety reasons, low-traffic roads quickly turned into the Wild West in many places. In New York City, super cars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis set the empty streets ablaze, with roaring engines disturbing residents trying to sleep. Motorists from coast to coast have been ticketed at breakneck speed.

Several lead-footed motorists took the opportunity to set new records on an illegal, non-stop coast-to-coast race called Cannonball Run.

A Mainer used a rented Ford Mustang GT with 130 gallons of fuel tanks to set a solo record for the race from New York to Los Angeles in 25 hours and 55 minutes. One team set a new record shortly after their record-breaking jaunt.

Fred Ashmore called New York a “ghost town” as it sped past May 2020, peaking at 159 mph and averaging around 108 mph on the 2,806 mile trip.

“There is no one who has never accelerated,” he said. “I just accelerated faster and for longer.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sounded the warning at the start of the pandemic regarding speeding and reckless driving.

The agency expects the number of fatalities to decline with fewer kilometers traveled, similar to previous declines during economic downturns. But deaths have increased throughout the pandemic and have even escalated in the latter part of the year.

Ultimately, nationwide road fatalities in 2020 increased by about 7.2% to 38,680, even though there was a 13.2% reduction in kilometers driven, according to NHTSA estimates. It was the deadliest year on the highways since 2007.

Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation expert at DePaul University, said there is a combination of factors at play. Some drivers are encouraged by the lack of law enforcement, and others tend to join in. them to go with the flow.

At the same time, motorists feel more secure because they over-trust airbags, anti-lock brakes and other safety devices, he said.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to turn the tide.

Police and road safety officials must make sure speed limits take into account all users, and then they must vigorously enforce them with a visible presence, said Joseph Young, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute. for Highway Safety.

Some police services launch public awareness campaigns.

“Summer vacation should be a time of fun and family, not of sadness and tragedy,” said Washington State Police Chief John R. Batiste, as California’s Oregon and Washington were launching a summer travel security enforcement effort.

In places like Los Angeles County, California, heavy traffic jams can naturally slow down motorists.

But those flashing blue lights are still the best antidote to speeding and bad behavior, said Fischer, of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“High visibility law enforcement works,” she said. “When people see the police, they’ll think twice about what they’re doing. “

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Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/David_Sharp_AP.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.



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