• January 26th, 2022

With the rising number of cases and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, nations and local governments, including many across the U.S., imposed travel restrictions on their citizens. This travel restriction order led to a significant reduction in traffic volumes and a generally lower exposure to crashes. However, recent preliminary statistics in the US suggest an increase in fatal crashes over the period of lockdown in comparison to the same period in previous years. This study sought to investigate how the pandemic affected road crashes and crash outcomes in Alabama. Daily vehicle miles traveled and crashes were obtained and explored. To understand the factors associated with crash outcomes, four crash-severity models were developed: (1) Single-vehicle (SV) crashes prior to lockdown order (Normal times SV); (2) multi-vehicle (MV) crashes prior to lockdown order (Normal times MV); (3) Single-vehicle crashes after lockdown order (COVID times SV); and (4) Multi-vehicle crashes after lockdown order (COVID times MV). The models were developed using the first 28 weeks of crashes recorded in 2020. The findings of the study reveal that although traffic volumes and vehicle miles traveled had significantly dropped during the lockdown, there was an increase in the total number of crashes and major injury crashes compared to the period prior to the lockdown order, with speeding, DUI, and weekends accounting for a significant proportion of these crashes. These observations provide useful lessons for road safety improvements during extreme events that may require statewide lockdown, as has been done with the COVID-19 pandemic. Traffic management around shopping areas and other areas that may experience increased traffic volumes provide opportunities for road safety stakeholders to reduce the occurrence of crashes in the weeks leading to an announcement of any future statewide or local lockdowns. Additionally, increased law enforcement efforts can help to reduce risky driving activities as traffic volumes decrease.

Abstract from Emmanuel KofiAdanu, David Brown, Steven Jones and Allen Parrish.

Read the full study here.