As Coronavirus stay-at-home orders are being lifted across the country, you’re probably excited to hit the road and return to a sense of normalcy. Just as it’s important to continue to follow the recommended health and safety guidelines, you can also take a few extra steps to stay safe behind the wheel. So before you pack up the car for your first summer outing, here’s what you should know.
Some Surprising Statistics
The National Safety Council recently shared some alarming news: although fewer drivers have been on the road during the pandemic, the fatality rate per miles driven rose by 14 percent during the month of March. Some states experienced an even greater spike. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported that the fatality rate doubled in April, even as traffic on major highways dropped by 50 percent. Empty roads have led drivers to take greater risks behind the wheel, including speeding and reckless driving.
To make matters worse, hospitals are overwhelmed with caring for COVID-19 patients. This makes practicing safe driving more critical than ever. How can we do our part to help keep ourselves and others safe?
1. Remember Pre-Pandemic Traffic Rules Still Apply: Even if the roads are clear and traffic is light, be sure to obey the speed limit and practice safe driving. Continue to follow any state and local directives that are still in place. Because stay-at-home orders vary by state, be sure to read up on any potential restrictions before traveling to another state.
2. Be Mindful of Bicyclists and Pedestrians: The pandemic has led to an increase in people on bicycles and on foot. As the weather grows warmer, that number will continue to rise. When passing a bicyclist or pedestrian, reduce your speed and provide adequate clearance. Look out for cyclists turning, crossing intersections and entering the road from driveways and parking lots.
3. Be Aware of Construction Zones and Workers: According to the Federal Highway Administration, an average of 773 fatalities caused by work zone crashes occur in the U.S. each year. As restrictions on road construction projects ease up, be aware of your surroundings. When approaching a construction zone, slow down. Expect delays and possible changes in traffic patterns and remain patient. Stay alert and obey traffic signs and directions from flaggers. Keep a seven-second following distance in case the vehicle ahead stops abruptly.
4. Connect With Your Teen Driver: Due to stay-at-home restrictions and school closures, chances are your teen driver has also spent less time on the road over the past few months. Remind your teen about the dangers of not buckling up, speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving (this means no texting!). Practice driving with them until they feel comfortable behind the wheel again. Set an example by driving responsibly.
5. Expect Increased Commuting Times: Soon, more and more Americans will be returning to work. According to a Vanderbilt University study, in a possible worst-case scenario, three out of four transit riders could switch to driving. Just imagine how this could affect your daily commute. To prevent road rage and the stress of rushing, leave earlier so you can start your day calm, grounded and accident-free.
As always, your safety is our top concern. If you have any safe-driving tips to share, please leave them in the comments.