Last updated on November 12, 2020 at 06:48 pm
Just as it’s important to continue to follow the recommended health and safety guidelines, you can also take a few extra steps to stay safe behind the wheel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what you should know.
Some Surprising Statistics
The National Safety Council recently shared some alarming news: although fewer drivers have been on the road during the pandemic, our roadways have become far riskier. Preliminary estimates based on data from all 50 states indicate that motor-vehicle deaths in August 2020 totaled 4,010, up 12% from August 2019. This means that for the third month in a row, road users in the U.S. were at a higher risk of dying from a motor vehicle crash.
Some states experienced an even greater spike. In April, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported that the fatality rate doubled, even as traffic on major highways dropped by 50 percent due to stay-at-home orders.
Empty roads have led drivers to take greater risks behind the wheel, including speeding and reckless driving. To make matters worse, hospitals are overwhelmed with caring for COVID-19 patients, which means that practicing safe driving is more critical than ever. How can we do our part to help keep ourselves and others safe?
- Remember Pre-Pandemic Traffic Rules Still Apply: Even if the roads are clear and traffic is light, be sure to obey the speed limit and practice safe driving. Continue to follow any state and local directives that are still in place. Because stay-at-home orders vary by state, be sure to read up on any potential restrictions before traveling to another state.
- Be Mindful of Bicyclists and Pedestrians: The pandemic has led to an increase in people on bicycles and on foot, particularly in urban areas. When passing a bicyclist or pedestrian, reduce your speed and provide adequate clearance. Look out for cyclists turning, crossing intersections and entering the road from driveways and parking lots.
Cyclists should be on high alert, too, paying close attention to vehicles approaching at high speeds and parked vehicles that could present a hazard. When turning or changing lanes, use turn signals to let drivers know your intentions. For more bike-safety tips, click here.
- Be Aware of Construction Zones and Workers: According to the Federal Highway Administration, an average of 773 fatalities caused by work zone crashes occur in the U.S. each year. Now that restrictions on road construction projects have eased up, be aware of your surroundings. When approaching a construction zone, slow down. Expect delays and possible changes in traffic patterns and remain patient. Stay alert and obey traffic signs and directions from flaggers. Keep a seven-second following distance in case the vehicle ahead stops abruptly.
- Connect With Your Teen Driver: With stay-at-home restrictions and school closures, chances are your teen driver has also spent less time on the road over the past few months. Remind your teen about the dangers of not buckling up, speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving (this means no texting!). Practice driving with them until they feel comfortable behind the wheel again. Set an example by driving responsibly.
- Expect Increased Commuting Times: Soon, more and more Americans will be returning to work. According to a Vanderbilt University study, in a possible worst-case scenario, three out of four transit riders could switch to driving. Just imagine how this could affect your daily commute. To prevent road rage and the stress of rushing, leave earlier so you can start your day calm, grounded and accident-free.
As always, your safety is our top concern. If you have any safe-driving tips to share, please leave them in the comments.