Most of the U.S. is still shut down and will be for the foreseeable future. With much of the population hunkering at home, major metropolitan areas across the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Denver, are reporting an uptick in speeding tickets issued in the past few weeks. Some cities are even directing police to be more lax with speeding enforcement.
A few days ago, NYC-focused Streetsblog noted the uptick in speeding in the Big Apple this week:
Over the 14 weekdays between March 5 and March 24, city speed cameras issued 180,718 summonses, or 12.3 per cent more than the comparable 14-day period in January (Jan. 13-31), when just 158,510 speeding tickets are issued by cameras, city data show. (Cameras only issue tickets on weekdays.)
The 12-plus-per cent increase in tickets come as the total number of vehicle miles travelled in the five boroughs is down by 71 per cent from that same January baseline, according to data from StreetLight.
Los Angeles is in a very similar state of affairs, according to CBS Los Angeles. Formerly gridlocked streets are wide open for drivers to forcefully apply pedal to metal:
Drivers are going about 12 per cent faster on weekdays, and 6 per cent faster on the weekends. On the famously gridlocked 405 Freeway near the Getty Centre, average speeds were found to be up by nearly 7 mph since the stay-at-home orders. Average speeds on the Interstate 5 near the 14 Freeway interchange were also up by more than 9 mph.
UC Davis conducted a study on traffic across the state and found with fewer people on the roads, there has been a 50 per cent decrease in traffic accidents on California highways.
However, between March 19 and March 29, CHP officers wrote 543 tickets to drivers going over 100 mph, compared with 418 for the same period last year.
I didn’t know it was possible to get a stretch of highway clear enough to push a car up to 100 mph in LA, but here we are. While LA police are pulling drivers over for pushing the speedometer northwards, police in the Michigan counties hardest hit by the virus, Wayne and Oakland, are taking a live-and-let-speed approach. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told MLive that police will probably be writing much fewer speeding tickets, but not because drivers have suddenly become super safe:
“If you see an expired licence plate, that by itself — unless you’ve got some other reason — isn’t necessarily something we want to pull a car over for,” Bouchard said. “First, the Secretary of State’s offices are closed. Second, for something that’s minor we don’t necessarily want to expose us to them and them to us. Under the current circumstances, as it relates to very minor traffic enforcement, we’ve encouraged people to make those kinds of discretionary choices.”
Police may look the other way when vehicles are driving above the speed limit on an open stretch of freeway, he said, but not when other drivers are at risk.
The city of Detroit, which is in Wayne county, is one of the hardest hit by cononavirus in the nation, with a higher death rate than New York, the Metro Times reports. The city is also down over 500 officers, who were quarantined following COVID-19 exposure. After the death of two officers, Mike Jaafar, chief of operations at the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, said the threat of COVID-19 just isn’t worth the risk:
“I’m not a proponent of going out there right now,” Jaafar said. “Unless you’re doing something blatant and affecting the safety of others, we’re warning folks as best we can and making sure folks understand social distancing is a priority.”
Colorado police across the state are reporting an uptick in wild antics on Rocky Mountain state roads, according to CBS Denver. The California State Patrol tweeted a warning last week:
We asked nicely yesterday to please minimize the dangerous driving behaviors. Some people didn’t get the message. If you do this you are endangering yourself and everyone else on the road! If you don’t think we are enforcing this you are mistaken! pic.twitter.com/PK6loUjnUO
— CSP Golden (@csp_golden) March 29, 2020
While the call of uncluttered blacktop might seem too much to resist, this kind of behaviour is very much a bad idea for a number of reasons.
Let’s say you lose control and crash. I know it’s hard to imagine.
If you don’t die outright from driving at excessive speeds your dumb broken body will end up taking time and resources away from emergency workers who need to focus on coronavirus patients right now. Staying home isn’t just about stopping the spread of the virus, it’s about giving overwhelmed ERs a break from the usual bullshit so that they can focus all of their energy on seriously ill patients. Plus, there are still other cars on the road, only these cars are more likely to be driven by an essential worker. How bad would you feel if you crash and took out a doctor or nurse right now?