According to the latest data, the 2020 highway death toll was the highest in over a decade, even though trucks and cars drove less during the pandemic.
"Summer can be incredibly dangerous. It culminates in Labor Day, the last hurrah," Pam Shadel Fischer, Governors Highway Safety Association.
Traffic data shows that the higher death rate was due to slower speeds and more people driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. There has also been a decline in seatbelt usage.
Motorists don't seem to be slowing.
"People are flying down roads," Maine State Police Cpl. Doug Cropper spoke out about summer traffic on Interstate 95. It's absurd.
The number of reckless driving tickets cited by the California Highway Patrol grew almost double the pre-pandemic level.
Officials in New York said that the number of deaths from speeding accidents was higher than the previous year.
Beau Duffy, spokesperson of New York State Police said that "there is continuing concern about the increase in speeding and aggressive driving when we enter the heartland of the vacation travel season"
Extreme speed is a sign of the early days before the pandemic.
Police were distracted by civil disobedience, and they reduced routine stops to ensure safety. The roads that are not heavily traveled quickly became the Wild West. New York City was filled with supercars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris, whose roaring engines disturbed residents who tried to sleep. Motorists across the country were issued tickets at eye-watering speeds.
Many lead-footed drivers took advantage of this opportunity to set new records in an illegal race that ran non-stop from coast to coast, the Cannonball Run.
To set a new solo record for driving from New York to Los Angeles in just 25 hours and 55 minutes, A Mainer raced a rented Ford Mustang GT equipped with 130 gallons of fuel tanks. Soon after the record-setting trip, a team set a new record.
Fred Ashmore claimed New York was a ghost town as he drove away in May 2020. He reached speeds of 159 mph, and averaged about 108 mph during the 2,806-mile journey.
He said, "There is no one who has never sped." "I just sped faster than I used to."
In the midst of the epidemic of reckless driving and speeding, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a warning.
According to the agency, fatalities would decline if there were fewer miles driven. This is similar to other economic downturns. The pandemic was not a success. In fact, the number of fatalities increased throughout the year.
According to NHTSA estimates, the national number of traffic deaths rose 7.2% to 38.680 in 2020, despite a 13.2% decrease in miles traveled. This was the most fatal year for highways since 2007.
Joseph Schwieterman is a DePaul University transportation expert. He said that there are many factors. The lack of enforcement can empower some drivers, while others will follow the flow.
He said that motorists also feel safer driving faster because they trust in anti-lock brakes, air bags and other safety features.
Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the trend.
According to Joseph Young, spokesperson for The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, police and highway safety officers must ensure that speed limits are fair for all users. They must then enforce them vigorously with a visible presence.
Public awareness campaigns are being launched by some police departments.
As Washington State Police Chief John R. Batiste stated that summer holidays should be fun and family and not a time of sorrow and tragedy, California, Oregon, and Washington launched a summer travel safety enforcement campaign.
Heavy congestion in areas like Los Angeles County can naturally slow down motorists.
Fischer from the Governors Highway Safety Association said that flashing blue lights are still the best way to stop speeding or bad behavior.
She stated that "high visibility enforcement works." "People will be more attentive to police officers when they see them," she said.