Roads of all types – city streets, rural byways, freeways and more – are notably quiet these days across Louisiana. The steady and sometimes frenetic traffic level that typically defines them seems more than muted.
In fact, there is often no traffic at all.
That new roadway reality owes to the COVID-19 pandemic and its material effects on just about every aspect of daily life. Louisiana authorities issued a state-at-home order in March, which has spawned an eerie quietness in otherwise busy public places.
Including the aforementioned thoroughfares across the state. Estimates posit that traffic has generally decreased by well more than 30% since the injunction.
So why, then, are more people dying in motor vehicle accidents?
One state transportation official looking at crash outcomes and a resulting spiked fatality rate underscores “a very concerning disconnect.”
That is this: Whereas 62 people died in Louisiana auto crashes between March 16 and April 20 last year, five more than that died over the same period this year – despite the notably decreased amount of traffic.
The crash catalysts most responsible for the jump in fatalities are the usual culprits spurring such outcomes. Law enforcers spotlight drunk drivers, on-board distractions and improper belt usage.
There is this too, though, which is a development being widely reported in states across the country: More drivers are viewing empty lanes as invitations to speed.
That won’t last indefinitely, of course, but the phenomenon persisting once a semblance of normalcy returns in traffic volume is a stated concern of regulators.
“Once we open the floodgates and people can get out there and travel freely again, what are we going to see?” asks a director of one national safety group.