The number of traffic stops due to excessive speed, including tickets and car crashes during 2018–2021, have increased because of a potential residual effect of COVID-19.
Utah highway patrolman Sergeant Cameron Roden said because of the COVID-19 pandemic law enforcement has been encouraged to decrease their contact with the public, mainly focusing on interjecting to stop dangerous behaviors like DUIs and other life-threatening behaviors and accidents.
Because of the decrease in law enforcement presence, over the course of the pandemic, people began to notice this decrease and realized they could get away with speeding more, Roden said.
Roden described the trends in speeding that have occurred over the past few years including the number of tickets for drivers going 100 miles per hour or more.
“In 2018, we saw just over 3,300 speeding tickets distributed and then in 2019 about 3,773,” he said. “But then you go to 2020 and we had 5,137. In 2021, we were up to 4,800: so not as high as 2020 but still a substantially large number of high speeds.”
Roden said the effect of the pandemic is being seen nationwide through the increase in risky behavior and reckless driving habits. Because law enforcement no longer has COVID-19 restrictions and is getting back to normal, the data shows a slight decrease of these risky driving incidents in 2021. However, the number of these traffic stops is still high and drivers overall “have gotten used to these risky behaviors,” Roden said.
One proposed reason for this behavior as an outcome of the pandemic is that people are more stressed and volatile, which reflects in their driving habits.
“I see people being more aggressive but also not as courteous while driving, not letting people into traffic, ignoring people’s blinkers,” 23-year-old Provo resident Emma Mecham said.
The pandemic has often led people to detach from reality because of the isolation factor. “I feel like my life slips away from me sometimes, so I go for a drive and speed sometimes into three digits,” 19-year-old Beaver, Utah, resident Akaydeh Willden said.
Law enforcement is pushing the message that speeding is killing people and causing fatal car crashes, Roden said. They need the cooperation of the public to get them to make the right choices before fatalities will start to decrease.
“We desperately need the public’s help to be able to see these things turn around,” Roden said.