If you've hit the roads in recent weeks, you've probably been enjoying a smooth commute with little traffic on the road, as Californians continue to observe stay-at-home orders issued amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the California Highway Patrol says those empty highways are tempting motorists to put the pedal to the metal.
Authorities say that the number of drivers cited for driving over 100 mph has increased by nearly 50%.
“People are ... eliminating non-essential travel, and as a result, there has been a significant reduction in the number of commuters on the highways,” California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley said.
Preliminary data released by the state shows a 75% decrease in the number of crashes in California between March 19 and April 30 as compared to the same period last year. There was an 88% reduction in the number of fatalities and a 62% decrease in the number of people injured in crashes. There were fewer drunk drivers on the road too, as the number of DUI arrests conducted by the CHP decreased nearly 42%.
“Resist the temptation to speed; drivers are easier to spot when they are on a nearly empty roadway,” Stanley said. “Remember, taking care of one another goes beyond wearing a face covering and physical distancing. As communities in California move into the next phases of reopening, continue to slow down, pay attention to the road, drive sober, and keep yourself and those around you from becoming a grim statistic,” Stanley said.
All those open roads have proven tempting to speed demons. CHP officers issued 2,738 citations for speeding in excess of 100 mph, an increase of 46%.
"However, not all of the state's drivers have been on their best behavior during the pandemic,” a CHP statement said. “The open roads have led to a few brazen motorists testing the speed limit -- and eventually meeting up with a CHP officer for a citation.”
Traffic on Los Angeles streets have also decreased significantly, leading to a 38% decrease in traffic collisions during the pandemic. However, fatalities in Los Angeles are up by 15% and pedestrian fatalities have increased by 33%, with the majority of those occurring in the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau area.
“We want people to get the message that they need to slow down and be aware of their surroundings,” said LAPD Officer Tony Im.
“They are seeing less traffic, and they are driving too fast. And they may not even be aware of how fast they are going,” Im said.
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