Many of us have resumed our routines or transitioned to a new normal after the pandemic. Except in our cars. Early in the pandemic, drivers began a dangerous trend of driving less and speeding more into open roads, resulting in very serious crashes and injuries.
This past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new public outreach campaign to address the growing danger of speed-related accidents.
In this blog, we share a few statistics from the NHTSA’s “Speeding Wrecks Lives” campaign to encourage awareness about the consequences of speeding here in Massachusetts.
The impact of speeding during the pandemic:
- More than 11,000 people were killed by speeding crashes in 2020, a 17 percent increase from 2019.
- Overall, speeding caused 29 percent of all traffic deaths in 2020.
- Younger drivers age 18-44 were behind the wheel in 25 percent of fatal speed-related crashes.
- Younger male drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 were involved in many of these crashes.
Another critical benchmark involves young children. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports speed-related deaths of pedestrians younger than 15 more than doubled between 2018 and 2020.
In June, the State House News Service reported that Massachusetts reached an 11-year high in traffic deaths during 2021. In the article, a Massachusetts DOT board member specifically mentioned the impact of speeding as well as aggressive driving since the pandemic began.
Fatal Pedestrian Crashes Are More Likely At Higher Speeds
The Federal Highway Administration has long stressed the importance of managing speeds on the roads, citing data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The data shows pedestrians have a much higher chance of survival when hit in car crashes at lower speeds.
When a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling 23 mph, they have a 10 percent chance of death, compared to a 50 percent chance of death when a car is traveling 42 mph. Pedestrians are 90 percent more likely to die when hit by a car traveling 58 mph.
Why Speeding is So Dangerous
With this new campaign, the NHTSA continues to educate the public on the specific hazards of high-speed accidents.
Drivers who speed are more likely to lose control of their steering. Even when the driver sees a pedestrian or identifies a potential traffic hazard, they may not have time to stop or change lanes in time if they are speeding. Drivers have more control when they travel at lower speeds and really take time to look for pedestrians and cyclists. When a driver looks, this naturally slows them down and raises their awareness of road conditions. With more pedestrians and cyclists out than ever, drivers should really look, whether they are traveling through downtown areas, school zones or quiet back roads.
When drivers disregard the speed limit, they may also let their guard down in other ways. Speeding can be a springboard for drivers to engage in aggressive driving and road rage.
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As employees work from home and schools offer remote learning, traffic volumes remain low across Massachusetts. This may mean less stressful driving at times. Yet it can also lead to an increased risk of car accidents caused by speeding.
Across Massachusetts, traffic volumes are 20 percent lower than last year at this time, according to a MassDOT presentation this month. In some areas, traffic is even lighter. For instance, in the City of Boston, traffic is down as much as 48 percent.
North of Boston, there is an 18 percent decrease in traffic right now, according to the presentation. South of Boston, there is a 19 percent drop in MassDOT District 5, which includes Plymouth County, Bristol County and the Cape and Island. West of Boston, the decreases range from 28 percent to 18 percent.
If you commute, a MassDOT official said there is no peak traffic hour right now. This is true during both the morning and the afternoon/evening commutes. There is a consistent bump in traffic during these times, but nothing near pre-COVID 19 traffic levels.
An easier drive into Boston would be welcome news if not for COVID-19.
Boston is known for traffic gridlock. Many publications and websites have ranked the city’s driving experience among the worst in the U.S. Most recently, we earned a new honor, when WalletHub ranked Boston the 83rd worst of 100 driving cities.
According to the survey, Boston drivers log the most hours sitting in traffic congestion each year, along with drivers in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. The rankings also noted Boston drivers are more likely to have a car accident than those in other cities.
Boston was ranked among the top 5 cities where drivers were most likely to have a traffic crash. This list also included the California cities of Oakland and Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.
Right now, there are fewer cars on the road. This may sound safer.
But NECN recently reported on the dangerous trend of drivers speeding into open roads. In Iowa, the state patrol recorded a 101 percent increase in drivers speeding 100+ mph from January through August. There was also a 75 percent increase in tickets for drivers who were traveling 25 mph or more over the speed limit.
In California, the highway patrol issued more than 15,000 tickets from mid-March through August 19 for speeding over 100 mph. This was a 100 percent increase over the same period in 2019.
Then, there is Ohio. Between April and September, state troopers issued 2,200 tickets to drivers traveling more than 100 mph between April and September. This marked a 61 percent increase from the same time last year. The highest speed was a stunning 147 mph.
Speeding can cause serious and fatal injuries, even when traffic is light. In April, there were 28 deaths, compared to 27 in April 2019 – despite half the traffic.
Like other states, Massachusetts has seen an alarming number of drivers cited for speeding. In March and April alone, Massachusetts police issued 15,071 speeding citations, including 259 drivers traveling at 100 miles or more, according to a Boston Herald report.
Police cited 1,035 drivers for traveling speeds of 90 mph to 100 mph. Another 2,518 were traveling between 80 and 90 mph.
Some of the fastest drivers were traveling even faster, at unbelievable and unsafe speeds. In Stoughton, a driver was caught traveling 140 mph in a 65 mph zone. Two other drivers reached 130 mph speeds in Ludlow and North Attleboro. On Cape Cod, a driver was caught traveling 125 mph.
Speeding is highly dangerous. MGL c.90, § 17 states, “No person operating a motor vehicle on any way shall run it at a rate of speed greater than is reasonable and proper, having regard to traffic and the use of the way and the safety of the public.”
Drivers have a duty to use reasonable care in Massachusetts. This means traveling the speed limit or slower when necessary for safety, even when there is no sign posted. In Massachusetts, cities and towns have a default speed limit of 30 mph in thickly settled or business districts. In 2016, the state passed the Municipal Modernization Act allowing communities to lower default speed limits to 25 mph. Many communities have done so and enjoy the improvements. Near schools and work zones, the speed limit is 20 mph.
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If you have been injured, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced car accident lawyer. Since 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck has represented those injured by negligent driving across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy and the South Shore, the North Shore, Plymouth, Brockton and Cape Cod.
For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.