Crash severity in Michigan higher during COVID-19 pandemic, group says

With lighter traffic on roads, people are driving faster

(Julio Cortez, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is sharing data and tips to encourage safe behaviors as weather warms and COVID-19 restrictions begin lifting.

With lighter traffic on the roads right now, people are driving faster. People are also walking and biking in higher numbers. The combination of higher vehicle speeds and more vulnerable road users is potentially dangerous, and crash severity has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is great that people are getting outside and enjoying Southeast Michigan’s robust network of parks, trails, and sidewalks while we limit other activities to keep each other safe during the pandemic,” said Kathleen Lomako, Executive Director of SEMCOG. “However, it is important that we also promote safety by driving at posted speeds and taking care when we enjoy walking, biking, jogging, and other activities,” said Lomako.

This video promotes safe behaviors for people who walk, bike, and drive in Southeast Michigan.

When comparing average travel speeds by vehicles on Southeast Michigan highways before and after Michigan's Stay Home, Stay Safe order, SEMCOG found that they are up eight percent compared to the baseline.

Based on preliminary and unofficial data comparing March-April 2020 with the same period of time in 2019:

  • While vehicle miles traveled and traffic crashes have decreased by almost 55 percent, the number of crash-related fatalities has only decreased by 29 percent. Serious injuries and fatalities combined decreased by 43 percent.
  • Bicycle trips have increased by more than 110 percent, while walking/running trips have increased by more than 130 percent. The number of individuals walking/running and biking has increased by nearly 80 percent.

Traffic safety tips:

  • When driving, be sure to slow down and watch for people. 
  • When walking or biking, stay alert to traffic, especially when adjusting your behavior to keep a safe social distance. 
  • Safety is everyone's responsibility.
  • Find more tips on traffic safety on the Walk.Bike.Drive. Safe web page.