Why are so many people driving so darn fast during the pandemic?

driving 100 mph coronavirus pandemic
Photo via Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

In April, police across the country reported an increase in reckless driving due to the pandemic. More than four months later, police are still saying that cars are speeding faster than ever, and communities are experiencing their deadliest traffic months. Driving 100 mph or faster apparently has become more of the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, police partially attributed the uptick in reckless driving to empty highways during the many lockdowns across the U.S. But most cities have reopened their economies at this point, leading some to wonder why people are still speeding. 

The increase in speeding is a trend seen all over the country. According to the Associated Press, the Iowa State Patrol recorded a 101% increase in tickets for speeds exceeding 100 mph from January through August over the four-year average. The California Highway Patrol issued more than 15,000 tickets from mid-March through Aug. 19 for speeds surpassing 100 mph. Ohio state troopers issued 2,200 tickets since April for driving more than 100 mph. 

Police told the Associated Press they believe the speeding is still a result of the pandemic, as well as the civil unrest across the nation. Police are spread thin and are giving fewer tickets, and people apparently now believe they can be more reckless. 

For example, in Ohio, a combination of lax enforcement of traffic laws to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the need for more police to provide security at protests led the state in July to experience its deadliest traffic month since 2007. There were 154 fatalities. 

“When people see less troopers on the roadway or they see less law enforcement out working, there is that tendency for them to start committing traffic violations,” Lt. Craig Cvetan, an Ohio patrol spokesperson, said.

Ohio is not the only state with a jump in traffic-related fatalities. Because high speeds have continued despite traffic increasing on the roads, crashes are more likely to occur. 

Vermont law enforcement officials have recorded 43 traffic fatality deaths in 2020, as of mid-September. At that point last year, the state had reached 21 deaths. According to the Augusta Chronicle, Georgia reported its deadliest Labor Day weekend in five years, with 19 deaths between 6 p.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Monday. 

Sources: Associated Press, Augusta Chronicle

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