Are Kentucky Roads More or Less Safe Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Most drowsy driving crashes occur between midnight and 6 AM.

A recent report in the Lexington Herald-Leader says one bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic has been fewer fatal car accidents on Kentucky highways this year, due to the state’s three-month lockdown.

Kentucky highway fatalities this year are the lowest they have been in five years, according to the newspaper’s June 11 report. The 258 highway fatalities reported by Kentucky State Police this year reflected a 16 percent drop compared to the 306 recorded by the same date last year.

Traffic on Kentucky Roads During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear shut down businesses and public activities in March due to the spread of COVID-19, and highway traffic immediately fell.

“Similar to nationwide trends, traffic volumes decreased as Kentuckians followed state and national guidance by telecommuting, avoiding crowds and limiting trips to essential travel,” Chuck Wolfe, a spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet, told the Herald-Leader. “The first recorded traffic count drop we saw began the week of March 8 and traffic counts have been lower each week since when compared with the counts from the corresponding weeks in 2019.”

Weekly traffic counts in Kentucky during the economic shutdown declined by a range of 18 to 41 percent.

As stay-at-home restrictions have begun to ease and some businesses have been re-opening, traffic has climbed. The state allowed some health care services and facilities to re-open April 27. For the week starting Sunday, April 26, traffic was down 33 percent compared to 2019. More businesses reopened May 11 and Kentucky’s highways got busier. The traffic volume count was down only 26 percent the week of May 17, according to the Herald Leader’s count.

Road Safety on the Nation’s Highways

Kentucky’s decrease in traffic deaths in early 2020 puts the Commonwealth ahead of the nation for the first third of the year.

Nationwide, deaths on the road are up an estimated 2 percent through the first three months of 2020 compared to last year, a National Safety Council (NSC) news release says.

The NSC calculates a 14 percent jump in fatality rates per miles driven in March across the U.S., in spite of an 8 percent drop in the total number of roadway deaths compared to March 2019.

“Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving,” Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO, says in the release.

“Anecdotal reports indicate speeding, for example, has increased significantly since traffic diminished,” the NSC says. “Some states are also moving forward with ill-advised roadway tactics intended to address the COVID-19 pandemic … that could have far-reaching consequences. Among them are repealing requirements for teen drivers to pass road tests before acquiring licenses and relaxing hours-of-service rules for commercial vehicle (truck) drivers.”

Nationally, the transportation-data firm Inrix said travel had the largest rebound of the COVID-19 pandemic during the week of May 16 to 22. Personal travel was down 19 percent for the week compared to typical traffic vs. 25 percent below normal the week before.

At its worst fall-off nationwide, personal travel was down 48 percent the week of April 4 to 10.

As traffic increases, reckless driving is increasing. Data analytics company Zendrive titled a May report “Mobility Amidst Lockdown: Every Minute on the Road is Riskier.” From March 16 to April 19, Zendrive found a 27 percent increase in speeding, a 25 percent rise in hard braking and a 38 percent increase in cell phone use among drivers compared to the five weeks prior to the nation’s first stay-in-place order.

“With the decline in traffic, some drivers saw empty highways as an open invitation to speed while being distracted by their phones,” the Zendrive report says. “With the increased desire to stay informed about the evolving circumstances and the well-being of loved ones, people are interacting with their phones more than ever. As a result, phone usage while driving has increased dramatically.”

Exercising Caution on the Roads During the Coronavirus

To help ensure safer roads, the NSC urges motorists to:

  • Follow state and local directives and stay off the roads if officials have directed you do to so. Many states continue to ask drivers to stay home except in emergency situations or for essential errands. Gov. Beshear’s “Ten Rules to Reopening” begin with 1) Continue telework where possible, and 2) Phased return to work.
  • Obey speed limits, even if roads are clear and traffic is light.
  • Be aware of increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic as people turn to walking and biking to get out of the house during the pandemic. Conversely, pedestrians and bicyclists should remember that reduced traffic does not mean no traffic and should use caution when crossing or walking in streets.
  • Practice defensive driving: Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions – such as cell phones.

Contact a KY Car Accident Attorney

Increased traffic on the roads as Kentucky re-opens is bound to lead to more car accidents. If you are injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you have legal recourse. You may have a right to seek compensation for your medical bills and other losses, including your pain and suffering. A car accident attorney at Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer in Kentucky can help you evaluate your legal options.

We’ll demand full compensation for your losses and stand by your side and fight for you to receive every penny you deserve. That’s Kentucky Courage.

Contact Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer at (877) 809-5352 to set up a free legal consultation. Find out how Kentucky Courage can help you make yourself financially whole after a serious car accident. We have eight offices across Kentucky to serve you from. Call now.