At the beginning of the COVID crisis, when NYC went into full lockdown mode for several weeks, the lack of traffic on the roads was nothing short of surreal. The noise levels were lower, the streets were quieter, and even the air seemed cleaner. Ironically, however, the fatality rates in car crashes were going through the roof.
According to a recent report by Reuters, traffic fatalities spiked considerably in New York City and other major cities worldwide in the wake of lockdowns. Here in NYC, the fatality rate among car collisions was up 167 percent in April compared to the same time frame the year before. In Chicago, the fatality rate shot up a whopping 292 percent. So while the streets have been emptier during lockdowns, they have been far less safe.
Why the Increase in Fatal Crashes?
Experts attribute the rise in fatalities to one primary factor: speeding. With less traffic on the roadways, drivers tend to drive faster. They also tend to be less watchful of pedestrians, operating on the base assumption that the roads are clear.
The problem isn’t limited to New York or the U.S., either. According to British law enforcement officials, the U.K. has seen an alarming increase in driver speeds, especially during lockdown periods. So have countries like Austria and Belgium. Fatality rates across the board have been going up as a result.
What It Means for New Yorkers
New York City is a “walking city,” with abundant pedestrians crossing streets at any given time, not to mention a larger-than-average share of bicyclists. All of these people are currently at greater risk on New York City streets due to the spike in reckless or negligent driving. Here are some ways to protect yourself (and in some cases, others):
· Be more mindful when crossing roadways. Expect cars to be moving faster than normal, and don’t assume drivers see you when you’re crossing. Allow yourself more space than usual to cross streets.
· Use crosswalks. Jaywalking in NYC is almost as common as…walking. Drivers are more likely to see you in crosswalks than if you dart across the street mid-block.
· Use extra caution on a bike. The rate of injury and fatality among bicyclists was already high in NYC before the pandemic. Pay close attention to your surroundings, use bike lanes when possible, and avoid main thoroughfares as much as you can.
· If you drive, slow down. Avoid the impulse to drive faster just because you see fewer obstructions. The default driving speed on NYC streets is still 25 MPH, and there are still many pedestrians on the roadways.
If you or someone you love has been injured due to a driver’s speeding or negligence, we can help you receive the full measure of compensation to which you’re entitled. Give our offices a call to learn more.