RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The state transportation board says that while fewer people have been on the roads due to coronavirus shutdowns, there’s a concerning uptick in the number of traffic deaths where victims are speeding and not wearing seat belts.
After dropping significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, traffic volume trends are returning to normal, according to data released by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Traffic hit a low in mid-April when volumes for cars and trucks were 64 percent lower than they were in 2019. Since then, traffic has slowly rebounded - and it’s almost on track with last year’s numbers.
“Fewer vehicles on the road during the COVID-19 crisis have contributed to a 45% decrease in all crashes,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine in a release. “But it is of great concern to see that the number of fatalities involving both speed and unrestrained travelers has increased by 78% during this time period compared to 2019. We are urging all motorists to drive the posted speed limit and wear seat belts.”
From March 13 to May 21, 2020, speed-related deaths make up about 50 percent of the overall fatalities, which is 8 percent higher than in the same time frame in 2019 Of the 58 speed-related deaths, 41 were not wearing seatbelts.
Additionally, VDOT says unrestrained deaths for 2020 through May 21 have increased approximately 15.4 percent compared to 2019 - 120 deaths in 2020 vs. 104 in 2019.
“Some drivers have been caught traveling at speeds higher than 100 mph,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran in a release. “At a time when we are supposed to be looking out for one another, it astounds me that people aren’t wearing their seat belts and would endanger their lives and the lives of others by driving recklessly on our roadways. Please consider how all of our actions impact each other – slow down and buckle up.”
The issue not limited to Virginia. A recent analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association reported a severe spike in speeding and other reckless driving behavior across the country during the pandemic.
State safety officials say its time to slow down and buckle up.
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