Roads throughout Massachusetts may be clearer as Massachusetts residents remain at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they aren’t necessarily safer. 

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The Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported that even though traffic had dropped by 50% on major highways, the number of fatalities on the roads did not. In April of 2020, 28 people died in motor vehicle crashes including 18 drivers, 4 passengers, 2 motorcyclists, 3 pedestrians and one bicyclist who was killed near Massachusetts and Harrison Avenues in Boston on April 22nd. By contrast, last April, there were 27 people who died during typical traffic conditions, according to state data. 

Massachusetts State Police began a safe driving initiative on April 25 after seeing an increase in speeding, seeing some cases with drivers traveling at speeds over 100 mph according to spokesman David Procopio. 

“We have deployed numerous additional patrols during targeted enforcement periods across the state,” he said. “The extra patrols to date have written 271 citations for speeding and issued 111 warnings to motorists driving at excessive speeds.”

The additional patrols have also issued 13 citations for violations of the hands-free driving law, 12 citations for violations of the “Move Over” law, 11 citations for seatbelt violations, and 73 citations and warnings for other “miscellaneous traffic offenses” since the initiative began, according to Procopio, but these numbers only reflect the citations issued by the initiative’s additional patrols. 

State Officials say speeding has become more of a problem due to the temptation of an open road that may normally be cluttered by traffic.  “During the pandemic, everyone in the commonwealth has sacrificed and used disciplined actions to keep themselves, their loved ones, and our community safe,” Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said in a statement. “We ask that all residents use this same dedication to safety and reduce their speeds when driving.” 

Gulliver spoke at a virtual press conference Monday, and said the state does not yet have final numbers on whether crashes increased or decreased overall last month compared to months prior, however the preliminary data does show that most of the incidents that have occured, about two-thirds, happened on local city and town roadways as opposed to state-controlled highways. While the lack of traffic will most likely be part of our new normal for the foreseeable future, state officials continue to urge the public to wear their seatbelts, drive sober, and comply with the new hands-free driving law along with regular posted speed limits. 

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Massachusetts is not the only state experiencing more reckless drivers as coronavirus keeps more people off the road as Rhode Island also saw an increase in pedestrian fatalities. 

In a press release last month, the GHSA, a nonprofit organization that represents state highway safety offices across the country, noted that safety officials “are seeing a severe spike in speeding … with some noting a significant surge in vehicles clocked at 100 mph or more.”

“While COVID-19 is clearly our national priority, our traffic safety laws cannot be ignored,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said in a statement. “Law enforcement officials have the same mission as health care providers — to save lives. If you must drive, buckle up, follow the posted speed limit and look out for pedestrians and bicyclists. Emergency rooms in many areas of the country are at capacity, and the last thing they need is additional strain from traffic crash victims.”

Please remember, empty roads are not an invitation to drive faster. Safety for yourself and others should be a top priority when you get behind the wheel. If injuries resulting from another driver’s negligence are preventing you from living a full, productive life, you may be entitled to personal injury compensation. Dussault & Zatir, P.C. is prepared to ensure that you receive a full and fair settlement for your injuries. Reach out today!