The Claims Journal recently published an article titled Traffic Returning to Roadways, But Claims Patterns May Shift Permanently. I frequently read the articles on their website — You can learn some fascinating traffic and claim research straight from insurance sources.
The article raises some interesting issues. Will post-pandemic traffic return to pre-pandemic levels? Will the shutdowns from the coronavirus cause lasting changes in our driving habits? Will our roads be safer or more dangerous after the pandemic? We may not fully learn the answers to these questions for months or years.
Some insurance companies are already predicting Americans will drive less on a permanent basis. Other researchers are predicting rush-hour driving will permanently decrease with telework and drivers staggering their trips to different times.
One insurance company that collected driving data is reporting a 30% decline in miles driven for 2020 when compared to 2019. That makes sense. This huge decline came during the pandemic shutdowns. We all saw the huge decrease in cars on our roads. The same company also reports miles driven increased dramatically in March 2021 by 19%. That jump puts driving rates back much closer to pre-pandemic levels. Of course, many employers also re-opened offices in March and April 2021. So, a big jump nearing pre-pandemic levels is also no surprise. It will be interesting to see data over the summer months. Will families hit the open road for vacations after spending a year isolated?
I agree we may see lasting changes in rush-hour traffic in metropolitan areas. Many people now realize they can perform some work at home. With zoom and other telework options, many work activities can now be performed remotely. At our office, we have been attending court hearings across Alabama through zoom since the pandemic began. Some workers may be able to stagger their driving just for appointments or meetings. Nationwide, this may impact traffic patterns.
How about the local impact? What impact will we see in Huntsville and across northern Alabama? Here, we are growing rapidly. Home sales are booming. Construction projects are ongoing all around Huntsville. If we continue to recover from the pandemic, I believe traffic will continue to grow tremendously across northern Alabama.
What changes do we see in serious car accidents and personal injuries? In recent months I’ve written several times about the high rates of both impaired driving and distracted driving during the pandemic. Although Americans drove less during the pandemic, rates of impaired and distracted driving increased. The boom in zoom meetings allowed some dangerous drivers to even participate while trying to drive. That’s a dangerous activity involving all types of distracted driving, manual, visual, and cognitive, at the same time. With impaired driving, several local northern Alabama police departments reported increases in DUI arrests during the pandemic. We may see fewer small traffic accidents with less rush hour traffic. But, we will likely see increases in serious accidents involving drunk or distracted drivers. The data concerning impaired and distracted drivers is disturbing. It’s an issue we need to watch closely as traffic patterns return to normal.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm helps people with serious personal injuries across Alabama. Many of our cases involve car and commercial vehicle accidents and injuries. If you have questions about a legal issue, let us know. We are happy to discuss your questions.