By: Karen Nadeau, Esquire
During the Stay at Home Advisory we are doing a lot less driving. Why?
-Many of us have no commute to work. Some sadly lost their jobs and others work remotely.
-Those of us accustomed to juggling kids to and from school, sports and other extracurricular activities now yearn for those chaotic days to return. We are schooling from home and all sports, dance schools, and other activities have been canceled indefinitely.
-We also lost out on many vacations and trips for both business and pleasure where we would travel on the road long distances.
-The multiple trips to retail stores, shopping malls, restaurants, hairdressers, barbershops, nail salons, playdates and playgrounds and the like evaporated with this pandemic.
-Many of us only venture out in our vehicles one time a week, shopping list in hand, to the local Market Basket, Stop & Shop, Wegman’s or Whole Foods or to the local Walgreen’s, CVS or Target for groceries, needed pharmaceuticals and personal care items.
The Benefits and Costs of Less Driving
What are the Benefits of Less Vehicles on the Road?
- When out on the roads, it is unreal to see no traffic on the Route 93/128 bottleneck in the Woburn area or to see no congestion during the typical rush hour traffic on Storrow Drive and Downtown Boston. Our monthly gas bills are down maybe 75 % or more as the gas tank remains full for a lot longer these days as our cars sit in our garages and driveways.
- There are significantly fewer car accidents with less cars on the road. This results in far fewer claims on our motor vehicle insurance policies for car rentals, vehicle damage, personal injury protection benefits and bodily injury claims. Fewer accidents means our cars are not damaged and riders are not injured by a car crash.
According to News Center 5, the Massachusetts State Police responded to 2379 crashes in the same 4-week period last year compared to only 1006 crashes in Massachusetts during the COVID 19 emergency. This is a 58 %reduction.
- The significant drop in car crashes means fewer insurance claims. This results in significant savings to the insurance companies as they are paying out fewer claims. According to the Boston Herald, Attorney General Maura Healey asked the state to make auto insurance companies cut rates during the coronavirus crisis, when travel has dropped significantly. The Mass Division of Insurance was working with insurers individually. Insurance Carriers were asked to make refunds as crashes and claims were all down.
Many insurance companies have stepped up to offer money back and discounts on our motor vehicle insurance policies.
Norfolk & Dedham announced a 20% refund for private passenger auto policyholders for April and May premiums. Similarly, Mapfre Commerce announced a 15 % refund. Geico, Liberty, Allstate and Travelers are all providing refunds to their private auto policyholders.
This savings could not come at a better time as so many families struggle to make ends meet during this pandemic.
What are the Costs of Less Vehicles on the Road?
- Ignoring the Rules of the Road
When out on the local roads or highways during this crisis, although there are few vehicles, many have observed more reckless and aggressive driving. With less traffic, some are forgetting the rules of the road. Running stop signs, traveling at high rates of speed, unsafe lane changes on the highway and ignoring the new hands-free cell phone use while driving seem to have increased with fewer cars on the road during this pandemic.
- Crash Fatalities
Road fatalities have increased in Massachusetts despite less traffic during the pandemic. According to the Boston Herald, more people have died on Massachusetts roads in April despite 50 % less traffic during the same period last year. Officials cite speed and distraction as factors as roads are cleared amid coronavirus related stay at home orders.
Some Surprising Statistics During the Pandemic
Mass DOT said 28 individuals died in crashes in April 2020 compared with 27 deaths in motor vehicle crashes in April 2019 when traffic was higher.
Of the 28 people who died across the state of Massachusetts, the breakdown is as follows:
According to Mass DOT, the victims were ages 15-80 years old.
State Highway Administrator stated that they saw a pretty disturbing trend in the way people have been driving. Normally congested roads were a breeze to travel. People were trying to get where they were going faster.
According to CBS Boston, State Police began speed reduction initiatives across the state on April 25th and had written 271 citations and 111 warnings for speeding.
State Troopers said some drivers were traveling at extremely high speeds, some over 100 mph.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city would set up speed traps if necessary.
Mass DOT also said other states with the same congestion problems experienced similar increases in fatality rate. This is despite the lock down during the crisis and despite the traffic reduction. Fewer cars did not lead to fewer fatal crashes.
According to Boston News, since Governor Baker’s Stay at Home Advisory which includes no restrictions on travel took effect on March 24th, Massachusetts residents stayed at home at a higher rate than almost any other state in the country. According to University of Maryland Data, 39 % of Baystaters are staying home behind only New York 46% and New Jersey 43 %, the only two states with more corona virus deaths than Massachusetts.
Recommendations for Travel on the Roads
- Obey speed limits and do not exceed posted speed limits
- Wear a seatbelt
- Obey the new hands-free law regarding cell phone use
- Pat attention to your surroundings
- Drive sober
Recent New Trend of More Cars on the Road During the Coronavirus Emergency
From January to late April, the total vehicle miles traveled dipped by more than 70 % in each county in Massachusetts. However, there has been an uptick in cars on the road in May. Mass DOT says “Quarantine Fatigue” during the coronavirus pandemic may be the reason for recent spike in Massachusetts traffic.
Mass Department of Transportation reported an increase in traffic throughout the state amid the pandemic from April 27 to May 4th. According to Mass DOT secretary Stephanie Pollack, people are tired of spending so much time inside and want to travel. The phenomenon is named “quarantine fatigue” where we have increased travel even though we have not begun to open the economy in Massachusetts. Pollack said that mobility data suggests we are going out more recently. This is based on data collected from analytics from Streetlight.
As we look towards reopening the state, the lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC help victims and their families recover damages for their losses in serious injury and wrongful death cases arising from motor vehicle accidents. If you have any questions about your legal rights relating to a motor vehicle accident, wrongful death or other accident, feel free to contact us for a free consult today at 617-674-7640.