More Evidence That COVID-19 Is Making Us Bad Drivers Somehow

Illustration for article titled More Evidence That COVID-19 Is Making Us Bad Drivers Somehow
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There are fewer people on the roads now due to the pandemic, but more and more of them driving are doing so badly. You must have noticed this by now, and you were not wrong.

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Reports from research companies like Inrix, a traffic data firm spun off by Microsoft more than a decade ago, are showing a correlation between the pandemic and people driving more hazardously in recent months. All over the country, traffic and collisions are down but the severity of the accidents is up. It’s because people are driving faster and are more distracted. This adds up to dangerous roadways, and it’s been going on for a few months now.

We are learning that the trends are affecting drivers overseas, too. A report from a Spanish company, Abertis, claims similar patterns of behavior are being recorded in that country. Drivers are handling smartphones more, using their turn signals less and driving faster overall. The report claims that lowered traffic density has lowered people’s guards.

I think bad driving was less perceptible at first, and maybe we all figured it has something to do with one or two motorists in a rush. But now the bad driving seems prevalent. Every time I go to the store for groceries, to fuel up or to do a quick carwash, I see more and more drivers do something baffling on the road.

For the third time in a week or so, I saw a driver turn left without bothering to use the median. After Thanksgiving, heavily-trafficked intersections in my Texas town are a mess. Drivers are no longer leaving gaps for the actual intersection, piling into lanes even after the stoplight has turned.

It could be a matter of perception, and I could be reacting to traffic increasing for the holidays, but it can’t just be those factors alone. I remember holiday traffic before this year. It was bad, but instances where motorists did something dangerous or stupid used to be less frequent. Now I’m doing double-takes and asking myself “Are you seeing this?” on every single drive.

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After the lockdowns and quarantines, drivers seem less in tune with other drivers. I like to imagine that a bird’s-eye view of any stretch of highway might illustrate some harmony among cars. A rhythm, and naturally occurring patterns.

Almost like a stretch of sea, where schools of fish clump together, or scatter, in places. I always thought of myself as another fish in the jet stream. But, lately, things have felt disharmonious. We are seeing proof of this disharmony increase.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Periodista automotriz, Naturally Aspirated Stan.

DISCUSSION

splendid-fairywren
Splendid Fairywren

Speed here in Massachusetts is WAY WAY up.

I was on I-495 in SE Mass on Saturday, in the left lane, reasonably passing cars that were in the middle, when my rear view suddenly filled up completely with a very large, very white, Dodge Durango. It was so close, I could not see the bumpers.

It was def approaching at about 100, because I had previously seen it about 1/2 a mile behind me the last time I had checked my six, and I was doing 75.

Short story short, I let off the gas and wedged in the middle lane when I could. They pulled up on my right, in the right lane, waited for an opportunity, and tried to push me left, off the road.

They took off so fast, I couldn’t even tell what state the plate was from.

Covid has definitely enabled the shittier elements of our society. . .and governments.