UC Davis released a study which shows that due to reduced congestion on California roads, car accidents have halved in the state during the shutdown.
The researches at UC Davis believe that the reasons for the reduced amount of collisions and therefore injuries are the 60% reduction in traffic volume, and because of restaurants and bars being closed, DUIs are lower. No matter the reason, the results are astounding, there have been 15,000 fewer collisions, and 6,000 fewer collisions that resulted in injuries per month since the 20th of March when the stay at home order was issued. With statistics like that there is no denying that California roads are one of the biggest everyday hazards for residents.
Fraser Shilling, UC Davis’ co-director of the Roads Ecology Center, says that this is an unprecedented opportunity to monitor the impact of road congestion. He has been surprised by the dramatic results but says that the lives saved from motor vehicle accidents do not surpass the lives lost from coronavirus.
In the ten days before the shutdown, there were 1,1116 collisions per day, 562 of these collisions caused fatalities or injuries. In the ten days after the shutdown announcement, there were 500 collisions per day, 274 of which caused injuries or fatalities. Major highways are still being used for carrying freight, so the accident statistics haven’t dropped as significantly there. Instead, it is urban highways which have seen the most dramatic change in congestion, and therefore car accidents due to people working from home.
Usually, the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis researches the impact of transportation systems on natural landscapes and urban centers. They have been researching the number of animal deaths on highways until recently and looking at ways to improve wildlife crossings. However, when asked if animal deaths had reduced on roads during the shutdown, he said there was not enough data to say.
Their research has shown in the past that overpasses and underpasses are important to allow all wildlife to cross the road safely. This allows them to search for new feeding grounds, mix their genetic pool with neighbouring families, and find safer habitats. As Fraser Shilling has suggested, the time-frame has not been long enough to see if there are more wildlife crossing the freeways now that traffic has been reduced. It takes animals longer to change their habits when it comes to avoiding danger. However, species such as the mountain lion are at risk due to traffic congestion on California freeways. Mountain lions will soon be put on the endangered list due to their small population and inbred genetic pool.
UC Davis has requested more funding for their Road Ecology Center so they can study Covid-19’s impacts on social rhythms. At the moment, they are studying the social and financial benefits of the reduction in collisions. For UC Davis’s study, you may see here: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/california-covid-19-traffic-report-finds-silver-lining/