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OUR VIEW: Let's reduce speeds on area roadways

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Chicago traffic - file photo

Pedestrians walk past traffic as it moves west along Randolph Street toward Michigan Avenue and beyond on June 28, 2021.

Slow down, and watch out for others, particularly pedestrians.

That’s advice regularly given to drivers. It’s also advice that apparently was ignored as the country struggled through COVID-19 last year.

According to insurance analysts at QuoteWizard, Americans drove 430 billion fewer miles in 2020. Traffic volume dropped 13.2% in 2020 but the fatality rate per miles driven increased by nearly 24%. The National Safety Council estimated 42,060 people died on America’s roadways in 2020, the highest number of fatalities since 2007.

Illinois was eighth overall in roadway deaths, not a surprise because of the number of people in the state. But Illinois was also 10th in percentage increase of deaths over 2019.

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QuoteWizard analysts say the data indicates a key cause for the increase was young drivers going too fast on less-congested roadways. Speeding-related deaths began increasing in March, right as the first lockdowns were put in place and traffic volume started to decline. Drivers under the age of 34 had the largest increase in traffic fatalities.

With that much of a decrease in miles driven, the increases in speed and carelessness are understandable to a degree. Fewer people on the road removes one driver concern, looking out for the other guy. With fewer people around, we might think we’re a little more invincible and able to bump that speed up without thinking about the potential dangers of the road or the speed.

Anecdotal evidence says those who picked up speed during COVID may be continuing to ignore speed limits. That’s clearly a danger and concern as more drivers find themselves on the road and as people eager to enjoy the outdoors again focus more on fun than their surroundings.

It’s incumbent on drivers to slow down, keep an eye out for others and be safe. Surviving COVID only to perish in an automobile incident would be additionally tragic.


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