Despite a 50 percent drop in traffic from mid-March through the end of April, fatalities on the roads across Connecticut have increased.
Between January 1 and April 30 of this year there were 87 fatalities on the road compared with 62 in 2019 and 81 in 2018 during the same period.
“It’s astounding to me that despite the big drop off in traffic volumes and the big drop off in total crashes, the number of fatalities has not gone down. It’s either gone up significantly or is about the same,” said Tom Maziarz, the chief of policy and planning for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “The only thing we can attribute that to is a fairly significant increase in speeding.”
In April 2020, 6.2 percent of drivers were traveling faster than 80 mph on I-95 in Branford. In April 2019, less than 2 percent of drivers were traveling at the same speeds.
“It’s pretty clear that the increase in speeding is affecting the outcomes of the crashes,” Maziarz said. “More people are losing control or when they do have an accident, they are paying a higher price for that speed.”
The reason for the increased speeds, according to Maziarz, is the open roads. Drivers feel like they have more space, and therefore more freedom, to go as fast as they please. The realization that higher speeds were leading to many more fatalities than would otherwise be expected has spurred the Connecticut Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Connecticut State Police, to begin a “Do Not Speed Initiative.”
“It may be tempting for operators to exceed the posted limit, but we remind them that extreme speeds put everyone at risk: themselves, the general public, road crews and our first responders,” said Connecticut State Police Colonel Stavros Mellekas. “COVID-19 has put enough strain on our community, we don’t need to amplify that with preventable traffic fatalities. Your Connecticut State Troopers ask each and every driver to be safe, courteous and respectful of others by obeying the speed limit and all traffic laws.”
At the start of the pandemic, state troopers and local police officers were holding off on enforcing speed limits due to concerns about spreading COVID-19.
“Concerns about the safety of staff out in the field, not being able to be six feet away made the troopers more cautious at the beginning,” Maziarz said. “With this campaign they will be using a different approach to ticketing and getting information from people by asking all drivers to keep their windows closed.”
Drivers that are pulled over will be asked to hold their license, registration and insurance card pressed against the window for the officer to inspect.
“Our state, and our nation, have suffered tremendous loss from COVID-19. Every driver on the road can help prevent more senseless death, injuries and strain on our first responders and the healthcare professionals that are working tirelessly to combat this virus,” said Joe Giulietti, the Commissioner of Transportation. “We are appealing to the public on a personal level – now more than ever – please recognize the impact of speeding and extreme speeding on every family and every person in this state. Please don’t speed, and together, we’ll get through this.”