Traffic, crash numbers in Kansas increasing compared to beginning of coronavirus crisis

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Kansas, more people began staying at home and off the roads. Now four months later, trends are shifting.

Less traffic meant fewer crashes on Kansas highways, with fewer deadly crashes and overall accidents in March and April compared to the previous year.

“You probably had less, ‘hey let’s just hop in the car and go somewhere,'” said Chris Bortz, traffic safety program manager at the Kansas Department of Transportation. “I think people were thinking more in advance of, ‘do I really need to go to that location,’ and therefore the traffic travel was down there.”

The open roads also had law enforcement noticing a new trend of higher speeds. The Kansas Highway Patrol saw a 22 percent increase in cases involving speeds over 100 mph during the first couple of months of the pandemic.

“We did get a pretty good, significant increase as far as people speeding,” KHP Lieutenant Adam Winters said. “You’re going to see those violations, they just became more prevalent because of the lack of traffic that was there.”

Now with less restrictive guidance in place and people getting used to the ‘new normal,’ crashes are ticking back up. Officials are taking this time to remind people to be careful on the road.

“Hopefully those speeds decrease as traffic increases, obviously the more traffic you have on the road, the less time you have to maneuver or make decisions,” Winters said.

KDOT said fatality statistics are starting to get back to average.

“If you’re going out and about now, think of what it was like pre-pandemic. Traffic is going to start going back up, so you’re going to be interacting with more drivers and therefore it’s so important for you to maintain the rules of the road,” Bortz said.

With more drivers on the road Bortz said people need to follow the speed limits.

“The severity of crashes just goes up so much more dramatically the faster somebody’s going,” Bortz said.

Officials also said it’s important to slow down for construction areas as they are out in full force during the summer months. They also encouraged everyone to wear their seat belt.

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