With fewer cars on the road, police see an uptick in speeding (Update)


The coronavirus has resulted in stay-at-home restrictions in 27 states so far. Of course people are still allowed to go out to work at an essential business or to go shopping for food, but overall the amount of traffic on the roads is down dramatically. Some people seem to believe this means we’re now living in a Mad Max movie. Police throughout California are reporting an increase in speeders. And in New York, speeding tickets have barely budged despite a significant decrease in the number of drivers on the road.

Friday, the California Highway Patrol posted a statement on Twitter: “We are seeing a rise in motorists traveling at excessive speeds in the #bayarea. We are still out in force and will continue to issue citations. There is no faster way to get a suspended license than driving 100mph+!” As you can see in the image below, one of these tickets is for someone who was driving 117 in a 65 zone.

Officers in southern California are seeing the same thing:

It’s not just California where this is happening. Police in Hawaii are seeing the same thing:

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With noticeably less traffic as people follow government orders to stay home, some drivers are exceeding speeds of 70 and 80 mph on major highways, leading police to issue twice as many citations for excessive speeding over the past week.

The higher speeds have been logged on highways including Maui Veterans, Piilani, Kuihelani and Honoapiilani, where posted speed limits range from 40 to 45 mph, said Lt. William Hankins, commander of the police Traffic Section.

And police in Toronto, Canada have complained about an increase in “stunt driving” which is similar to reckless driving in the U.S. It means the driver was going at least 50 kph (30 mph) over the speed limit. This report involves a car pulled 92 mph in a 30 mph zone.

I witnessed some actual stunt driving myself over the weekend. I was about 2 miles from my house on a shopping run near a big indoor mall. The mall itself is currently shut down which means the massive parking lot is empty. While I was there in the middle of the afternoon, some idiot started doing donuts in the parking lot. There were several minutes of tire-screeching and smoke until he got tired and sped off. He was driving an older model Toyota Supra or something similar. I was too far away to see the driver but I suspect he was about nineteen.

Broken window theory says that if people sense disorder in a neighborhood they are more likely to feel the normal rules don’t apply. I think this is some kind of variation on that theme. Because the pandemic has changed so many things so quickly, including traffic, some people think the normal rules have been abandoned. They are going to be in for a rude awakening when they get pulled over.

Here’s a report from a Los Angeles station on the increase in speeders.

Update: The NY Daily News reported an 80% increase in speeding.

In an analysis I did based on data from speed cameras there’s been an 80% jump in the rate of speeding especially on residential streets. I know Gridlock Sam readers don’t speed but tell your friends who do that they are the new pariahs during this crisis. The more speeding the more injuries and the fewer beds and services for coronavirus victims! Slow Down Now! And if you do get a ticket don’t come crying to me.

In fact, New York’s speed cameras are issuing nearly the same number of tickets now as they were before the pandemic despite their being only a fraction of the number of cars on the road:

New York City’s speed cameras spit out 83,478 violations in an eight-day period in March — only eight-percent fewer than during a similar eight-day period in January, when there were tens if not hundreds of thousands more cars on the road.

It’s the first hard evidence that city drivers are treating the mostly open roads as speedways — and it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been outdoors during the coronavirus crisis.

It’s happening in Denmark too.

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