|Stark statistics bring speeding epidemic into sharper focus|
Traffic deaths have surged during the pandemic. The latest numbers from federal officials show a 10.5 percent increase during the first quarter of 2021 over the previous year, a rise that comes even as the overall number of vehicle miles driven has fallen.
Speeding motorists have been identified as a prime culprit of that increase. Motorists started speeding at new levels during the pandemic, and haven't slowed down even as traffic approaches pre-pandemic levels.
New data from traffic-analytics company Arity brings that driver behavior into sharper focus: the company says that today, nearly 1 in every 20 miles driven occurs at speeds greater than 80 mph. Time spent over 80 mph remains approximately 10 percent higher than in 2019. Forty-two percent of the miles driven at speeds faster than 80 mph occur at night, according to the Arity report, entitled "Life In The Fast Lane," which explores speeding behaviors during the pandemic, broader changes to commuting patterns and general travel trends.
The speeding statistics are damning, and dovetail with reports from safety advocates and first responders, who have sounded the alarm on increases in speeding tickets issued, traffic crashes and increases in fatalities since the early days of the pandemic.
In an episode of the Shift mobility podcast this year, Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, noted the rise in speeding not only corresponded with the pandemic, but with a decline in traffic enforcement.
The consequences became more apparent in July, when NHTSA said an estimated 38,680 people died in traffic crashes in 2020, a 7.2 percent increase from 2019 and the highest total in 13 years. Based on the first-quarter estimates, 2021 looks to be worse.
A stark reminder that the pandemic's death toll includes those falling victim to America's unforgiving, speed-stricken roadways.
— Pete Bigelow