Similar to many other states, the year 2020 saw a reduction in traffic-related deaths, with approximately 2,200 fatalities in California, a drop from 3,690 in 2019. Due to various lockdowns and business closures related to the coronavirus, people have driven less, leaving vehicles parked at curbs and in driveways and garages.
Fewer cars and trucks traveling in the state should equal safer driving. Yet, when traffic jams became an albeit temporary thing of the past, many Californians used the open road as an excuse to drive recklessly. The temptation to speed ended up putting them and everyone sharing the road at risk due to the dangerous and negligent operation of their vehicles.
The first month of the pandemic saw the California Highway Patrol issue nearly 2,500 citations for drivers exceeding 100 mph in one month, an 87 percent jump from the previous time period.
While the lockdowns prevented more car crashes caused by speeding in California and throughout the nation, the increase in traffic-related deaths still bucked longtime trends. Usually, a struggling economy that leads to lower levels of road congestion results in fewer fatalities.
Dangerous driving took other forms as well. In parts of the country, former motorcycle enthusiasts reignited their passion for riding, even though the lag time seriously diminished their skills. Add to that the return of drag racing in the wee hours of the night also played a significant and deadly role in national traffic stats. More people bicycling has also resulted in more bicycle versus auto accidents.
The past year will be known as a time of unprecedented trends. Tragically, one of those trends involved the loss of life due to negligent driving during a time when a virus was fatally infecting people at the same time.