Road Safety During COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted road safety in a number of ways over the past year. In the early months, lockdowns resulted in fewer cars on the road, and many drivers increased their speed significantly. And while there were fewer vehicles on the road, this did not lead to a prolonged period of reductions in deaths and, in some countries, no reductions in deaths at all. In fact, the crashes that occurred were often more severe as speed is a huge determinant of serious injury and mortality. A study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that “During the height of the national public health emergency and associated lockdowns, driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly, and drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seatbelts, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.”

While traffic has increased over the past many months with the return of some to work and school, reluctance to use public transport and carpools, and the large number of delivery vehicles, many of the risky behaviors continue. The problem is compounded by the significant increase in pedestrians and bicyclists on the roads. It has become clearer than ever before that roads do not belong to vehicles alone but rather are shared spaces for cars, pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and other modes of transportation.

Because of the recommendation to keep at least 6 feet from others, people often walk and bike ride in the street to maintain this distance. In addition, while some drivers have become more aware and careful of pedestrians and bicyclists, others are distracted or fail to focus on the pedestrians and cyclists who are out in greater numbers.

Below are some tips and helpful reminders for you as you navigate the roads during these unusual times.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

  • Social distancing may require walking in the street or biking in non-bicycle lanes. Wear bright-colored clothing or reflective gear so that you are visible to others.
  • Walk facing oncoming traffic if you must walk in the street.
  • If you must cross the street to avoid others, do so with extreme caution.
  • Use pedestrian crossings when available.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Do not use cell phones or other mobile devices to talk or text while walking or cycling.
  • Check your bicycle regularly to ensure that it is equipped with headlights, taillights and reflectors.
  • Wear a buckled regulation helmet on your ride.
  • Hydrate before you head out. Take water and snacks with you. If you are walking or riding long distances, plan your route so that you don’t need to stop for food or water.
  • Always have hand sanitizer with you.

Drivers

  • If wearing a face mask, be sure that it is positioned so as not to impair vision.
  • Continue to abide by all road safety laws, including the posted speed limit.
  • Reduce your speed below the posted speed limit in areas where people are walking and cycling.
  • Be vigilant about checking your surroundings for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially in parking lots where shoppers pick up grocery and curbside food orders.
  • Be on the lookout for groups of bicyclists who may be traveling within several feet of each other.
  • Wear a mask and gloves and use hand sanitizer when you use a public restroom or pump gas.

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