As coronavirus pandemic raged, roadways became speedways

While traffic has decreased 15% from February through July, the number of people driving more than 80 mph on Ohio roads jumped by 30%, according to sensor data analyzed by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Posted: Sep 6, 2020 1:11 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Some drivers took advantage of roads and highways emptied by the coronavirus pandemic by pushing well past the speed limit, a trend that continues even as states try to get back to normal.

The Iowa State Patrol recorded a 101% increase from January through August over the four-year average in tickets for speeds exceeding 100 mph, along with a 75% increase in tickets for speeds of 25 mph or more over the posted speed limit.

California Highway Patrol officers issued more than 15,000 tickets from mid-March through Aug. 19 for speeds exceeding 100 mph, more than a 100% increase over the same time period a year ago. That includes a continuing spike from May on.

The most likely explanation is drivers taking advantage of more open roads because of the pandemic, said Officer Ian Hoey, a spokesman for the California agency.

The patrol planned a heavy presence over the Labor Day weekend, he said.

“Let’s just slow down a bit and enjoy the day!” the agency’s Santa Rosa division tweeted June 21, along with a photo of a laser speed device recording a car going 127 mph.

In Ohio, state troopers have issued 2,200 tickets since April for driving more than 100 mph, a 61% increase over the same time period a year ago.

The highest ticketed speed was 147 mph in the Cincinnati area.

While traffic has decreased 15% from February through July, the number of people driving more than 80 mph on Ohio roads jumped by 30%, according to sensor data analyzed by the state Department of Transportation.

Columbus resident Karen Poltor experienced the trend firsthand last month when three cars raced past her on state Route 315, an expressway through the city.

“They were flying in the left lane and weaving around cars,” said Poltor, who estimated their speed at between 90 and 100 mph. “It was terrifying to watch.”

Ohio authorities are especially troubled that speeds not only picked up in the early days of the pandemic when roads were emptier, but they’ve also continued even as the state reopened and roads became more congested.

“We’ve seen people continue to go those speeds even though there now is more traffic, which makes it even more dangerous,” said Lt. Craig Cvetan, an Ohio patrol spokesman.

July was Ohio’s deadliest traffic month since 2007, with 154 fatalities.

A temporary reduction in traffic enforcement in the early days of the pandemic may have contributed to a sense of invulnerability by some drivers.

Some Ohio police agencies — though not the patrol — eased up on pulling drivers over for minor traffic violations to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

In addition, Ohio troopers were spread thin for several weeks as they were called on to help distribute food and later provide security as protests over police brutality and racism erupted following the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“When people see less troopers on the roadway or they see less law enforcement out working, there is that tendency for them to start committing traffic violations,” Cvetan said.

Vermont law enforcement officials believe an increase in the number of traffic fatalities recorded to date this year could be linked to fewer police on the road because of the pandemic.

So far there have been 43 traffic fatality deaths, up from 21 at the same point last year.

Utah state police saw a 23% jump in tickets issued for going 20 mph or more over the speed limit from March through August compared with the same time period last year.

In Pennsylvania, patrol tickets for drivers exceeding 100 mph climbed in March but then stayed high from June through August, jumping 25% during that three-month period.

The government warned drivers to slow down in a mid-July message aimed at pandemic speeding.

“Less traffic has coincided with a rise in speeding in some areas of the country, and that’s a problem because speeding increases the risk of crashes, and can increase crash severity as well,” said James Owens, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a public service announcement.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin49267665
Cuyahoga35214736
Hamilton29462371
Montgomery19636225
Butler14472144
Lucas14033409
Summit12962310
Stark8529197
Warren798975
Mahoning7068299
Lake662766
Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
Medina428654
Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
Tuscarawas317557
Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
Lawrence185436
Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
Belmont158529
Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
Knox122518
Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
Washington116427
Clinton103414
Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
Henry98422
Brown9644
Champaign9345
Jackson90312
Van Wert8976
Fayette89217
Hardin86118
Morrow8552
Guernsey83313
Coshocton81413
Perry77012
Adams75012
Pike7261
Wyandot70516
Gallia70413
Paulding62710
Hocking61011
Noble59722
Carroll44310
Meigs37612
Monroe31021
Morgan2395
Vinton2105
Harrison1913
Unassigned00
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