September 26, 2022

Things Will Get Worse,' Fauci Warns, as U.S. Hits a New Daily Death Record  - The New York Times

The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted the lives of many across the globe, but for some, the effects were fatal. While public health efforts were focused primarily on containing the spread of the coronavirus, traffic safety concerns rose to new levels. 

Speeding and DUIs occurred before restrictions and work from home orders were enacted. However, numbers rose considerably as fewer drivers entered the roads, more emotionally exhausted and frustrated than before.. 

This problem has been observed across the U.S. and has raised concerns in many states, including Virginia. 

Driver’s Response to Pandemic Restrictions 

As most would suspect, actual instances of accidents and congestion have decreased along with commute times. Workers across the state have chosen to work from home. Appearing to be beneficial, professionals are experiencing new levels of emotional distress within their own homes.

Virginia drivers have emptied the roads, leaving plenty of room for cars to navigate the highways at excessive speeds. Northern Virginia police reported many instances of drivers exceeding posted speed limits, often at dangerously high speeds. In many cases, cars reached speeds over 100 mph and even 200 mph, which is well over the state’s reckless driving standard. 

Additional trends relating to traffic safety are also occurring, like aggressive, distracted, or drunk driving. 

Why the Roads Have Gotten More Dangerous

Experts have tied recent spikes in drunk driving to pandemic responses. Similarly, the reports of reckless driving have reached new levels. Injuries and deaths related to high-speed crashes peaked over the past year as well. Law enforcement efforts caught many of the speeding drivers, but many have, and continue to, go unnoticed. 

This trend is dangerous for a few reasons. Americans’ awareness of first responder’s role in the pandemic response has created a false sense of freedom on the roads. With a smaller chance of getting caught, speeding, driving under the influence, and traffic disobedience are seemingly less risky behaviors. 

There is no one answer as to why this has happened. Experts predict that the dangerous combination of open roads and pandemic frustrations that have played a prominent role in these phenomena will rebound. 

Outlook and Solutions 

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, hospitals have experienced overcrowding and supply shortages. Raising the risk of severe or fatal accidents on the road also contributes to healthcare struggles over the past year. If this problem goes unsolved, lives will continue to be threatened on the road and in hospitals. 

“There are steps each driver can take when entering the road, but lawmakers could make a significant impact on road safety in Virginia,” says Fairfax criminal defense attorney Karin Riley Porter

According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Virginia has a lot of progress to make. With a Red, or severe, rating, it is one of the most dangerous states to drive in. While law updates may not be quick solutions to issues that resulted from the pandemic, they will improve overall traffic safety. 

Improving surveillance through new laws targeting safety could save lives. Advocates throughout the country are looking to see these changes made before the pandemic ends to enforce safety precautions. Targeted issues include: 

  • distracted and impaired driving
  • teen driver education
  • seat belt use and child safety seats 
  • motorcycle helmet regulations

Targeting young drivers, many suggested updates include raising the driving age and associated restrictions for new driver safety.