‘A lot of people are driving crazy’: Expert says less traffic means more speeding on local roads

An electronic message sign above the Capital Beltway in Maryland urges drivers to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

With many businesses and schools closed for the coronavirus pandemic, a local expert said there has been a significant increase in drivers speeding, which could in turn be dangerous for hospitals.

“It’s very easy — myself included being honest about this — to be driving faster than you’d normally drive,” said Wes Guckert, president and CEO of The Traffic Group.

“It’s very easy to be driving 70 or 75 [mph] on roads like the beltway when they’re straight and you can see forever it’s easy to do that because nobody’s in front of you.”

With more and more cars off the roads during the coronavirus outbreak, Guckert said that drivers are hitting local roads much faster than usual.

Besides the obvious risk of getting a ticket, speeding can be deadly for drivers and passengers, and could cause a ripple effect that could negatively impact hospitals that are trying to treat coronavirus patients.

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“A lot of people are driving crazy,” Guckert said.

“And so then what happens is that accidents occur and in today’s environment of COVID-19, the more people you send to the hospital, the less opportunity there is for doctors to be dealing with this virus.”

Additionally, driving fast takes a different skill set, Guckert said, which is something that many drivers don’t have experience with.

“Most drivers have not been trained to drive fast — they haven’t been through training courses the way police and emergency, EMS people have been trained,” Guckert said.

“Think about yourself, think about your family, think about your children think about what it would be if you ended up killing somebody because you took advantage of the low speeds and traffic.”

“You’ve got to live with that for the rest of your life.”

WTOP traffic reporter Dave Dildine says that he’s seen more violent crashes relative to the lower volumes lately.

“Last Friday, we reported on two separate serious crashes on the exact same stretch of I-270 that both required medevacs. In my nearly 10 years in the traffic center, I cannot recall another time that the same exact stretch of highway was closed for two unrelated medevac landing zones on the same day,” Dildine said.
The crashes happened on northbound I-270 near Route 80 in Urbana within six hours of one another. The second involved a vehicle that vaulted off the northbound lanes, landing aloft in a tree and catching on fire.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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