In a matter of weeks, life as we know it has completely changed. Once-bustling Main Streets are completely shut down, and the businesses that remain open are staffed by mask-wearing employees serving mask-wearing customers, both parties trying to limit contact as much as possible.
The coronavirus shutdown has changed society in a number of unexpected ways. To start, consider traffic. Work commutes that once took upward of an hour can now be completed in half an hour or less. As you may expect, this has also impacted accident rates—both for accidents only involving vehicles and accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists.
Roads Are Already Deadly for Pedestrians
To be clear, roads have not been an entirely safe place for pedestrians for a long time. As more people turn to walking to get their daily exercise and fresh air, this trend is expected to worsen. Pedestrian fatalities have increased 60% since 2009, compared to a 2% increase in all other traffic deaths between 2009 and 2018.
Decreases in Traffic Accidents
With fewer cars on the road, you might expect roads to be generally safer for those who are forced to head out to do essential work every day. In one way, you’d be right. The number of car crashes is decreasing across the country, but that plays out differently in each local area. In some areas, car crash numbers are actually increasing. Without traffic to keep them slow and steady, some drivers are engaging in more reckless behavior and putting other who are driving, biking, and walking at risk.
On the flip side, car accidents in California have decreased by about 50% since shelter-in-place orders were announced. This is with a 60% decrease in overall traffic, so perhaps California drivers are not taking unnecessary risks. While data is not yet available for Alabama, it is still important to stay cautious while driving.
…But It’s Not All Good News
While the number of car accidents is decreasing across the country, some numbers have risen sharply. Injury and fatality rates, both for drivers and others involved in crashes, have seen a substantial increase.
This may be partially attributed to the behavior leading to car crashes. Not only are drivers engaging in more reckless behavior, the stress of this unpredictable time is likely to leave lots of drivers distracted while behind the wheel. When you combine distractibility, aggressive driving, and the false belief that the roads are safer, you can end up with some unexpected problems.
Additionally, think about the load on health care facilities at this time. Emergency rooms across the United States are focusing on coronavirus patients. And when you add in the other health problems that bring people to emergency rooms, emergency health care personnel in many areas are overwhelmed. With higher care needs, fewer staff, and COVID-19 patients with higher priority, it’s not surprising that those who are involved in car accidents are less likely to get the care they need than they were six weeks ago.
Bike Accident Statistics in the Age of Coronavirus
To understand how coronavirus has changed bike accidents, take a look at New York City. As the current epicenter of the country’s coronavirus crisis and a place where many people have turned to alternate transportation modes, it is a good predictor of what other communities may soon experience. Compared to the week of March 8 to March 15 last year, the same period this year experienced a 43% increase in bicycle accidents in New York City. This comes after a steady decrease in bicycle accidents over a period of several years in New York City, so the increase is alarming. The creation of pop-up bike lanes has been pitched as a possible solution.
What to Do to Protect Yourself
During this time, it is crucial to do everything possible to protect yourself and avoid ending up in the emergency room. Start with these tips:
- Avoid all non-essential travel
- If you go outside to exercise and get fresh air, choose quieter side streets and sidewalks instead of busy main roads
- Put reflective strips on your clothes or bike if you are outside after dark
- Make sure you have a reliable way of getting help if you are involved in an accident
- Keep your identification on you at all times in case you need emergency assistance
- Consider sharing your location on your phone with a loved one so they can make sure you are safe
These are uncertain times for all of us, but we can get through it together. Stay safe, watch out for others, and do whatever you can to make life a little easier and more enjoyable. Find out what we’re doing to help or call the team at Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C. to discover how we can help you with your legal issues during this time.