COVID, Cars, And California – How Has The Coronavirus Impacted CA’s Driving Habits?

Even though used car sales are through the roof, Americans aren’t driving as much as they used to. In fact, some industry analysts believe COVID-19 may permanently reduce traffic on North America’s roadways.


While it’s debatable how much COVID will affect the future of driving, it’s undeniable there has been a decrease in car travel. According to recent data published in Car & Driver, Americans traveled over 60 percent fewer miles in April of 2020 versus April of last year.


Driving Downturn in California

This “driving downturn” was even more pronounced in California—a state that’s well known throughout the world for its gridlock traffic. Analysts at Patch suggest total traffic went down by 75 percent between mid-March and April of 2020 versus 2019 data.  


UCLA professors also claim total traffic deaths went down by about 73 percent in Southern California during the state’s lockdown orders. Instead of over 21,000 car crashes in March of 2019, the largest SoCal counties saw only 5,827 cases in 2020.


Increased Accident Fatality Rate

While all of this data looks great from a safety perspective, police departments claim they have noticed an increased fatality rate for crashes during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It appears that more people put the “pedal to the metal” as highways were cleared of other cars. In many cases, this has had severe consequences for drivers.  


In fact, speeding was involved in most accidents during the COVID-19 Pandemic. There were roughly 270 speed-related crashes in July of 2020, versus 214 for improper turning and 72 for DUI. While that’s significantly less than the 858 speeding crashes in February of 2020, speeding remains the most common reason for car accidents.   


Moving Forward

Today, there’s great debate over how sustained these reduced driving figures will last in the post-COVID age. On one side, analysts argue there will be a permanent shift away from driving as more employees work from home. Supporters of this theory also suggest more people will take advantage of online delivery services, thus reducing the number of drivers on the road.


On the other hand, some researchers claim driving rates will return closer to normal sooner than expected. Proponents of this view often bring up the recent boom in used car sales. Some analysts also believe people will feel more comfortable driving cars versus using public transit, air travel, or ride-share vehicles.   


Again, post-COVID driving practices are still up for debate. However, the latest research suggests public health authorities must continue to promote speed limits during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic.   

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