Many news agencies report that a rise in extreme driving incidents began about two years ago. This came at a time when people traveled less and roadways offered uncrowded highways, counteracting the benefits of reduced congestion.
Much information to this point shows that these perilous behaviors continue unabated.
Extreme speeding continued through summer
The Washington Post reported that a higher death toll on roads occurred in 2020 and 2021 due to higher than average speeds. Traffic statistics also reveal upticks in drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol and a slightly reduced rate of seat belt use. Officials recorded increased extreme driving in many regions of the country:
- California issued more speeding tickets to drivers going more than 100 mph
- New York saw more traffic fatalities related to speeding
- A driver from Maine raced from New York to Los Angeles in just under 26 hours
Speeding and reckless driving helped increase traffic deaths by over 7% from 2019 to 2020. This came at a time when miles traveled decreased by 13% from the previous year.
Empty roads emboldened drivers
Traffic officials explain this extreme behavior by citing the effect empty roads have on some drivers. They feel emboldened to open up on highways and push the limits of their vehicle. Also, they might respond to the perception of a reduced presence of law enforcement personnel on the roads.
Other factors include more confidence in newer cars that come equipped with advanced safety protections. To reverse the trend, officials continue to look at strategies such as more visible law enforcement and public service campaigns.