A Wheeling police officer checks the speed of the vehicles in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, April 9, 2020. COVID-19 is not a license to speed, reduced traffic leads to higher speeds.
(The Center Square) – Despite fewer cars on the roads because of pandemic restrictions, traffic crashes are becoming more deadly.
The National Safety Council, based in Itasca, reports a 23.5 percent increase in the fatality rate in May compared to last year.
Lorraine Martin, the president of the NSC, said the pandemic has exposed our national road safety culture for what it really is.
“It is clear that our open roads have created somewhat of an open season for reckless driving,” Martin said.
The number of miles driven in May dropped 25.5% compared to the year prior. Overall, the mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.47 in May compared to 1.19 in 2019.
Jonathon Adkins, executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, said drivers are ignoring the speed limit by a wide margin.
“Speed has been a dramatic problem for us,” Adkins said. “Folks are real excited to be out on the roads and are not used to seeing empty roads and they are taking advantage.”
There have been 511 fatalities in Illinois so far this year, which is comparable to last year, despite far less traffic. Cook and the surrounding counties lead the state in traffic fatalities. In downstate Illinois, the Metro East, Macon, Champaign and Peoria counties lead the way.
Jake Nelson, the director of traffic safety, advocacy and research with AAA, said that speed is the main contributing factor in the higher death rate.
“Speed camera data that recorded as high as a 16% increase in drivers going 50% faster than the posted speed limit, and we have not seen that speed problem in other parts of the world,” Nelson said.