You saw it if you ventured out for a drive and, now, a new report shows just how the coronavirus affected traffic around the country, including the D.C. region, as many people worked from home.
The height of shutdowns in the spring and summer led to faster speeds and fewer crashes on what were unusually wide-open highways. Yet, by the end of summer into the fall, numbers started to inch closer back to 2019 levels.
The report was issued by Seattle-based INRIX, a transportation analytics company that uses road sensors and vehicle data to conduct its studies. It found between April and July, the number of miles driven around the region fell by about 40% compared to 2019.
At the same time, collisions around the D.C. region were down 42%, even as speeds at which people drove on the highways increased by almost the same amount.
Roads around Baltimore saw average speeds increase by 51% during the same time period, though collisions were only down 30% there.
The report confirms that as coronavirus restrictions dropped, traffic started picking up by the end of summer. Between August and October, the number of miles driven compared to 2019 was off by about 25% in the two markets.
During that time, speeds continued to rise compared to last year — up by 38% in Baltimore and 27% in the D.C. region. However, even with fewer miles being traveled, the number of crashes between August and October slightly decreased compared to 2019.
While every metropolitan area around the country saw significant drops in collisions between April and July, the decreases were less pronounced between August and October. Some markets, such as Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, saw the number of collisions increase compared to last year, even though people drove substantially less in 2020.
The report concludes that drivers will continue to slowly increase the number of miles driven in the months ahead but expect traffic to move at higher speeds when hitting the road.