Traffic Down During COVID-19 Restrictions, But Crashes Up
The volume of traffic on interstates, freeways and side streets in the northwest suburbs is down. Because of more people working from home and the governor’s stay-at-home orders, fewer cars and trucks are on the road. According to Traffictechnologytoday.com, morning rush-hour traffic on Interstate Highway 394 has declined 22 percent since the start of the pandemic.
That’s the good news. The bad news is serous accidents are up.
“We have people that are still having to travel, whether it’s for essential needs or they have to go to work,” said Lt. Gordon Shank of the Minnesota State Patrol. “We’re still seeing people out on the roadways. Obviously there’s a decrease as MnDOT has said. But the problem is fatals are up, fatal crashes are up.”
For some drivers, free flowing traffic and wide open roads are too much temptation.
“We are seeing an excess of speeders,” Lt. Shank said. “There is an increase. We’ve seen speeders in the triple digits going over 100 mph. We have seen that as troopers. Troopers have relayed that back to me. We’re seeing people speeding more than they normally would. We’re out there stopping them.”
A Simple Message: “Slow Down”
The State Patrol’s message is simple: “slow down.”
“We want to tell people just because the freeway volume itself is down, that’s not a license to speed,” Shank said. “Make sure you are still driving the speed limit, putting the distractions away, buckling up and also make sure that you are not driving impaired. Those four key things are what we see in fatal crashes. It’s concerning to see that those are going up.”
Even in a pandemic, troopers will stop people for excessive speeding and issue citations and tickets. When someone is going way over the speed limit, it puts themselves and others in harms way.
“Absolutely,” Shank said. “That causes not only an unnecessary crash, totally preventable, but it causes road rage. Things like that can happen as well.”
A high speed crash is never good and that is magnified now with hospital beds needed for COVID-19 care.
“These crashes that happen at high speeds, you’re taking away a hospital bed from someone else that may need it that has a COVID issue,” Shank said. “This is a team effort. Make sure that you are going the speed limit so we all get to go where need to go safely.”