(WFSB) – If you thought driving got more dangerous during the pandemic, you’re not mistaken.
Channel 3 got a closer look at the program that many have noticed over the last year.
“Pandemic driving” is a real thing and there’s people set out to stop it before it becomes a tragedy that hits too close to your home.
Days before the new year, the family of 19-year-old Jacob Provost and 16-year-old Olivia Cyr had to say a tearful, sudden goodbye after the teens were killed in a crash on Route 44.
“What caused this tragedy is people not following the posted speed limits,” said Michelle Provost, Jacob’s aunt.
These young lives, full of potential, were two of the 306 lost last year on Connecticut’s roads.
The numbers don’t veer too far from previous years, but the total number of crashes were down by more than 30,000 last year when for a couple of months, the roads were mainly empty during the height of the pandemic.
“The number of fatalities that we were seeing didn’t drop in the same way that traffic volume dropped. That’s counter to what you would expect,” said Eric Jackson, Director of CT Transportation Safety Research Center.
With fewer people on the road, why are more people dying?
Eric Jackson, the Director of Connecticut’s Transportation Safety Research Center, says the reason crashes were more severe and the reason deaths didn’t drop was because speeding was increased.
“Eighty miles per hour, to 85 miles per hour. There was sometimes doubled, tripled, sometimes even quadrupled in the number of vehicles that were traveling at that speed,” Jackson said.
If you spend enough hours on the roads last year, you probably noticed.
“We really don’t have direct evidence to show why people are traveling faster,” Jackson said.
Trooper Curt Booker from the Connecticut State Police’s Aggressive Driving Team says he knows the source of the speeding epidemic.
Trooper Booker says many of the speeders cite the pandemic. He comes face to face with speeders every day, so he can share their perspective.
“People are a little angry. They’re upset about certain things, the status of the country, whatever the case may be, but to that point, they’re going to exercise that through their driving,” Trooper Booker said.
On a snowy day in mid-April, people should have been cautious on I-384 in Manchester, but that wasn’t always the case.
“This guy right here is doing 84,” Trooper Booker said.
Within a minute of Channel 3 setting up cameras, Trooper Booker was off.
Some drivers didn’t realize they were doing 80 plus miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.
“I thought it was a lot lower than that,” the driver said.
Other apologized immediately.
The most dangerous part of the situation is the traffic volume has now pretty much returned to normal, but the pandemic speeding hasn’t corrected itself.
“We really haven’t seen the drop in those numbers since the lockdown took place,” Jackson said.
“We’re creatures of habit. What we do once, we do it again. Now that we’ve been allowed or at least the perspective is that we’re allowed to drive that way, that’s not the truth or reality, but they believe that it is,” Trooper Booker said.
With summer fast approaching, expect the traffic to only get worse. With the same amount of aggression on the roads, police and experts hope that drivers will self-correct, but fear they may not.
“Until the discourse of the nation changes, it may be here. I’m no expert on that, but it very well could be here for a while,” Trooper Booker said.
That’s why the State Police Aggressive Driving Teams are so important. They will be out, cracking down on speeding, texting, and other distractions to make the roads safe as more people get on them.