Safety leaders urge cautious driving as more cars fill the roads

Some drivers in the D.C. area have taken advantage of lighter than usual traffic to flout speed limits and behave more aggressively behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will unveil a new ad campaign starting next month, reminding drivers to slow down and practice safer driving habits as coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they return to the road.

“We’re particularly concerned about the reports we’ve heard, and everyone has heard, of excessive speeding and reckless driving over the past couple of months,” said James Owens, the deputy administrator of the NHTSA.

“Our message is very simple: Please remember your safe driving habits.”

Police in Maryland and Virginia said they’ve issued hundreds of tickets and warnings to drivers who have been speeding on the highways — some going double the speed limit.

NHTSA said it’s pouring millions of dollars into the campaign, which will air in several states around the country, aimed at encouraging drivers to ditch any reckless habits they may have picked up during the pandemic.

“We’ve been focused on safety and health for the past couple of months. Let’s continue to be focused on that going forward as we get back out on the roads,” Owens said.

Owens said steps drivers should follow include slowing down, wearing a seat belt, driving sober and avoiding distractions.

“If you can do those four things, you’re likely to save your life and those around you,” Owens said.

The push comes after NHTSA data, released in early May, estimated that traffic fatalities in 2019 were likely to continue a decreasing trend seen in 2017 and 2018, even as the total number of miles being driven was slightly up last year. While the estimates show a reduction in fatalities, Owens said the NHTSA would like to see the downward trend continue further.

“Even with the reduction, we’re still projecting that 36,120 of our fellow Americans died on our roads last year. That’s still a number that’s far, far too high,” he added.

“It’s a good reminder that while the safety trends have been going in the right direction and we want to see that continue, we also want to remind everybody: Don’t forget those safe driving habits.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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