During the course of the COVID-19 public health emergency, many aspects of life as we know it in Texas have changed. One change is traffic safety, especially now that driving patterns have been altered as a result of social distancing and more people staying home. Unsurprisingly, traffic patterns changed significantly throughout the course of 2020, and some of these changes may also affect Texas residents and drivers if you’re planning to get back on the road or have been back to commuting for a while.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent report, changes to driving and travel patterns have been significant during the pandemic. The NHTSA reported that despite initial declines in traffic crash fatalities in 2020, the fatality rate increased during the second quarter of the year. From April until June, the fatality rate rose per 100 million vehicle miles traveled from 1.06 in 2019 to 1.25 in 2020. There was, however, an initial decrease in the first six months of 2020, which is likely attributable to the early onset of the pandemic and initial social distancing requirements and stay at home orders.
Drivers were taking on increased speeds in the second half of the year, according to the NHTSA. Although the reasons behind this are unclear, this may have been due to less bustle and congestion on the roads, which may have encouraged drivers to take advantage of the space. The NHTSA also reports that across nearly all roadway classifications, speeds observed in 2020 remained higher than in 2019. This, the NHTSA argues, presents a significant safety concern because a 10 percent change in the average speed of traffic has been historically shown to have a greater impact on traffic fatalities than a 10 percent change in traffic volume. Increased driving speed, the NHTSA contends, increases the risk of crashes and the severity of injuries associated with those crashes.