RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has shared recent data that has Commonwealth officials worried about travel amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Total crash numbers are down in the Commonwealth during the few months we've been in a pandemic, but an uptick in unbelted and speed-related crashes and crash fatalities have increased, according to VDOT.
VDOT points to fewer cars on the road being the number one reason for why these types of crashes have occurred.
“Fewer vehicles on the road during the COVID-19 crisis have contributed to a 45% decrease in all crashes,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “But it is of great concern to see that the number of fatalities involving both speed and unrestrained travelers has increased by 78% during this time period compared to 2019. We are urging all motorists to drive the posted speed limit and wear seat belts.”
Preliminary data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) shows that from March 13 to May 21, 2020, speed-related fatalities made about 50% of the overall fatalities. This is greater than the same time frame in 2019 (42%).
Virginia DMV data also shows that of the 58 speed-related fatalities recorded during this period, 41 were not wearing seat belts (70%). And, unrestrained fatalities for the calendar year through May 21 have increased by approximately 15.4% compared to 2019 (120 deaths in 2020 vs.104 in 2019).
“Some drivers have been caught traveling at speeds higher than 100 mph,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “At a time when we are supposed to be looking out for one another, it astounds me that people aren’t wearing their seat belts and would endanger their lives and the lives of others by driving recklessly on our roadways. Please consider how all of our actions impact each other — slow down and buckle up.”
Virginia is not the only state to have these similar vehicle crash issues amid the pandemic.
A recent analysis by the Governors Highway Safety Association reported a severe spike in speeding and other reckless driving behavior across the country during the pandemic, said VDOT.