Kimiko Kidd
No Comments

What Made Texas Roadways More Dangerous During Lockdown?

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page
Guadalupe Mountains in Texas
Photo: daveynin via CC

It seems like a paradox — although there were fewer drivers on the road during the Lone Star State’s pandemic stay-at-home order, there was also an uptick in traffic fatalities. Both local and national-level data sources indicate that this unexpected statistic is a product of reckless driving. Here’s a look at what the data shows.

High-Tech Reassurance: Choose Mazda connected services

Dangerous driving in unprecedented times

2020 Mazda CX-3
Photo: Mazda

According to estimates from the National Safety Council, Texas saw a 6 percent uptick in traffic fatalities between January and March of 2020. However, the state wasn’t under stay-at-home orders for the majority of that time. If we just look at March’s data, though, the difference is clear. Year-over-year, March showed a 14 percent increase in traffic deaths per mile driven. However, the data also showed an 8 decrease in overall deaths. In other words, despite the lower number of crashes, there were more deadly accidents.

What the experts are saying

Texas Scenic Route FM 170
Photo: Colin J. McMechan via CC

What caused this? Academics, along with state and local officials, offered their anecdotal take on the matter.

Denton Police Department spokeswoman Amy Cunningham shared the experience of local officers, stating, “They noticed an uptick in the number of 100-plus-mile-an-hour vehicles that they were catching on radar specifically during the stay-at-home order.”

Texas Department of Transportation representative Emily McCann concurred, adding that speeding is a key factor in an accident’s severity. “People might be taking more risks because they have a false sense of security about the less traffic on the roadway,” she added.

Emanuel Robinson, a psychologist who studies decision-making, weighed in on the matter. He explained that drivers on less-congested roads are more prone to speeding because many drivers tend to take cues from their fellow road users.

“In some cases, people are driving along and, without cars in front of them to kind of buffer things, might start increasing their speed and not even realize it,” Robinson said. He further suggested that the pandemic has given drivers more stress, which has ultimately led to more risky driving behaviors.

Driving psychologist Samuel Charlton chimed in, adding, “For a lot of people, they just follow the car ahead of them, and if there’s nothing to follow, they’ll get caught out by a sharp curve or because they’re going too fast or they’re not paying attention. They miss some important instruction on the road, like a sign telling them there’s roadwork ahead or there’s a turn or whatever, and they lose control of the car.”

Smart Tech Tools: Learn about the Mazda Co-Pilot concept

While we may be living through stressful, unpredictable, and unprecedented times, it’s still important to observe speed limits and traffic safety laws. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that 94 percent of all traffic fatalities are preventable, so please — follow your local traffic laws to make everyone’s commute safer.