We are living in unprecedented times – not just here in Los Angeles, but throughout the United States. As a law firm that focuses largely on car accidents, we have taken note of how the coronavirus shelter-in-place rules have reduced traffic everywhere, and with it the frequency of automobile accidents. That was to be expected. However, we cannot help but be concerned about what will happen when our country returns to business as usual. With your safety in mind, we decided to investigate the following:
- Will driving accidents spike following COVID-19 shutdowns?
- Are driving under the influence (DUI) crashes more likely to occur?
- Will drivers be more distracted, reckless, and negligent once they return to the streets en masse?
Our research yielded interesting – and concerning – data, which we are sharing with you in hopes that you will use it to protect yourself from suffering injuries in an auto accident once you’re back on the road.
Speeding already a problem during coronavirus pandemic
One alarming trend we discovered is that driving has already become more dangerous in California, even with far fewer cars on the roads. This is primarily due to drivers traveling the mostly empty freeways at excessive rates of speed. The California Highway Patrol has clocked “super-speeders” driving at 100 miles per hour or faster and have issued approximately 87 percent more citations for speeding. Speeding puts not only the careless driver and their passengers at risk but endangers other drivers and roadway repair crews. The problem has become so widespread that electronic warning signs are being used to post warnings against speeding.
Even before COVID-19 restrictions emptied our roadways, speeding drivers posed a significant threat to everyone’s health and safety. According to a 2017 report by the Insurance Institute of Health and Safety, the top behaviors reported by drivers involved in fatal crashes were driving too fast for conditions, driving in excess of posted speed limits, and street racing. Street racers have begun taking advantage of empty local roads already, with at least one recent, large gathering ending in a serious car accident with injuries.
Based on this and other data, this is what we expect once the coronavirus lockdown ends and normal traffic returns: everyone who have been stuck at home for months will return to the roads all at once in a hurry to travel again, and many will do so driving faster than is safe. However, considering the normal volume of traffic on Los Angeles-area roads, a spike in speeding and other careless, negligent, or reckless behaviors will put more innocent drivers at risk of a crash or collision. If history is a guide, we expect to see many more victims of automobile accidents involving serious injuries or fatalities once movement restrictions are lifted.
DUI car accidents likely to increase after COVID-19 restrictions lifted
A worrisome fact about Los Angeles is that we already had a higher-than-average rate of DUIs than the rest of California – in fact, as recently as 2019, it was eight percent higher than the national average. The number of fatal alcohol-related automobile accidents for Los Angeles county stands at approximately 26 percent.
With that in mind, consider that we have all been unable to socialize at a bar or restaurant, or gather for celebrations with family and friends, for an extended period. No doubt this has contributed to the significant reduction in motor vehicle collisions due to DUIs for now, but what should we expect when these restrictions are lifted? People are naturally going to want to celebrate their newfound freedom. Parties will be organized at homes and in public venues. Large groups of friends will gather at their favorite watering holes to spend hours catching up over cocktails. And tragically, people who have come to use alcohol to cope with the isolation and fears surrounding the COVID-19 lockdown will return to the roads having developed potentially serious, chronic drinking problems.
Again, it isn’t difficult to extrapolate likely outcomes. We expect reports of DUI driving accidents to increase significantly after the shelter-in-place requirement expires. The chances of encountering alcohol-impaired drivers will rise, putting you and your loved ones at risk on the local roads and freeways — particularly at night when inebriated people leave parties or bars. We advise you to exercise extreme caution driving in the Los Angeles area post-coronavirus shutdown as celebrations lead to an increase in DUIs.
Distracted, negligent, and reckless driving likely after coronavirus
Many experts predict an increase in people suffering from serious mental and emotional issues post-pandemic. Constant vigilance against exposure, ongoing isolation, and a barrage of frightening and tragic news is inevitably contributing to a rise in anxiety, depression, and other disorders.
A significant portion of the population may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can affect sufferers for a lifetime. When triggered while driving, PTSD symptoms endanger the driver, their passengers, and others on the road. While we normally equate distracted driving to checking a text or fiddling with the radio, PTSD can also distract drivers with intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or severe overreactions to unexpected occurrences (e.g., a deer dashing across the road). You should be aware of the symptoms of PTSD to recognize it in yourself and be alert for it in the behavior of others, especially fellow drivers.
We also expect the number of drivers being negligent or reckless to increase post-lockdown. The reason? No one is coming out of this situation unscathed. We all have been deeply affected in some way due to:
- Losses of friends or loved ones
- Furloughs and permanent job losses
- Ongoing fear, isolation, and loneliness
- Constant negativity on social networks and the news
- Major plans and life events postponed or cancelled
These feelings and reactions to them are not going to simply evaporate once the pandemic restrictions lift, which means a lot of people will be driving while only half paying attention to the road. They are likely to lose track of their surroundings or respond slowly and inappropriately to driving conditions. Some might overreact to being “set free” by carelessly ignoring speed limits and traffic signals and signs, putting everyone around them in danger.
“Over my 30 years fighting for injured drivers and motorists, I’ve seen how large, shocking events can often cause significantly higher levels of roadway accidents and injury. Staying alert, vigilant and safe on the roads needs to be everyone’s responsibility following this public health crisis,” said founding attorney Scott Corwin.
When COVID-19 restrictions end, you might need a Los Angeles auto accident lawyer
No one knows exactly what to expect in the months ahead. However, experienced car accident attorneys expect an uptick in crashes when everyone returns to their normal Los Angeles commutes. If you find yourself the victim of an automobile accident during or after the coronavirus outbreak, contact longtime Los Angeles attorney Scott J. Corwin at (310) 683-2300 for a 100% free consultation to discuss your legal rights.