By Catherine Badillo
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your life? Virtual school? Canceled vacations? Desperate need for any sort of social interaction? Well, I think we can all agree that changes to what was our “normal life” were necessary in order to figure out how to navigate through these unprecedented times.
One area COVID-19 significantly impacted that you may not have recognized is traffic safety. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, driving skills were not used for months, the traffic fatality rate per mile increased significantly, and roadways have become more dangerous than they once were.
I know personally for me, during the start of the pandemic I was not driving anywhere. I was lucky enough to work from home and attend my classes virtually. For most college students, all classes were moved online without the option of being in person. With this transition to virtual life, our driving skills were put on hold for a while. People started reporting that they have forgotten some aspects of driving. Routes that were once muscle memories are now forgotten and must be relearned. This has caused many anxieties among people of all ages. While some people are nervous about driving at night when it is dark, others are nervous about driving up to the speed limit due to their recent inexperience on roadways.
All of these anxieties caused drivers to either panic and stay off of roads, or abuse the empty roads by driving recklessly and speeding.
Due to the reckless driving that occurred in 2020, there was a 24% spike in roadway death rates. This was the highest it has been since 2007. According to the National Safety Council, this increase in rate of death is the highest estimated year over year jump since 1924 – 96 years (NSC, 2021). The false assumption that emptier roadways means safer roadways was debunked by these deadly statistics.
While Americans drove less during the duration of this pandemic, the mortality rates increased.
Since traffic was lighter, drivers took advantage of that freedom to accelerate which led to more dangerous roadways. It is important to practice safe driving habits when getting back on the roadways and transitioning to normal life again.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in hundreds of way, negatively and positively. This pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our normal day to day life. By being aware of these alarming statistics and false assumptions of emptier roadways, we should be extra cautious and safe while driving. Be aware of your surroundings, your speed, and any distraction that may cause you to put yourself or someone else in danger on our roads.
Source: National Safety Council https://www.nsc.org/newsroom/motor-vehicle-deaths-2020-estimated-to-be-highest
Catherine Badillo is a student at the University of Houston majoring in American Sign Language Interpreting. She plans to become an educational interpreter to provide deaf students with access to communication in schools.