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Pandemic’s Impact on Car Crashes in Boston Area

When the implications of the pandemic became all too clear and states and municipalities began to issue stay-at-home orders, many businesses closed or sent their employees home to work remotely. The impact on Massachusetts roads and highways became evident with the commensurate decrease in traffic. Anyone who drove on a major highway during rush hour could not help but notice that traffic volume was down considerably.

The incidence of car crashes necessarily increases with traffic volume and with more vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as the more cars there are, the greater the chances of a collision, even if speeds are lower. By early April 2020, the VMT percentage nationwide had dropped 46% compared to pre-Covid levels. In Boston, we had the lowest rate of collisions nationally, seeing a 19% reduction during the first 4-months of the pandemic. 

Fewer Collisions, But More Fatalities

However, in many states these rates rebounded to previous levels by late June. Even though the number of car collisions decreased, the fatality rate increased. 

With less traffic on the highways and interstates in states where traffic levels were and may still be low, motorists took and still take the opportunity to speed. The number of speeding tickets issued to motorists who were traveling 100 mph or more substantially increased in many states. Since speed is a major factor in fatal car accidents, the number of fatalities would seem to naturally increase as well. 

Boston, though, was one of the few major metropolitan areas where the collision rate has remained lower than it was in 2019. From statistics obtained from many of the largest metro areas and their so-called hot spots, or riskiest corridors, I-495 Blue Star Memorial Highway at I-93 Northern Expressway had a 33% reduction between April and October 2020. Speed, however, is up overall on Boston’s highways and other roadways with a 45% increase, the largest in the nation along with San Francisco, resulting in more severe injury accidents and fatalities. 

Traffic Accident Fatalities – A Lawyers Take

A troubling statistic is also where the traffic accidents and fatalities are not decreasing to significant levels. Although Boston saw interstate collisions decrease by 38%, there was only an 8% drop on its arterial streets. Fatal accidents have only decreased by 3%, which is not commensurate with the huge decrease in volume. When adjusting for the traffic volumes, which dropped substantially, the rate of fatalities increased by 31% between April and June.

There are more bicycles and pedestrian traffic on arterial streets. With more unemployed people and employees working from home, there may be more vehicle miles traveled in suburban and smaller towns. Combined with increased speeds, the result is more accidents than in 2019 on once less-traveled streets, and accidents that are more severe if bicyclists and pedestrians are involved. 

Another factor in the increase of fatal accidents on our arterial streets may be Boston’s Shared Streets and Spaces Program launched last June. The program was designed to open up low volume and residential side streets to pedestrians and cyclists. While many of these streets are closed to vehicle traffic, others are shared with bicyclists and pedestrians with more people taking advantage of marked bike lanes. This serves to only increase the responsibilities motorists have toward pedestrians and cyclists, such as giving cyclists a 3-foot space when driving alongside them, and being aware of riders in bike lanes when entering a bike lane or when making a right turn in front of approaching cyclists. When exiting a parked vehicle, motorists have to be aware of dooring, where a cyclist collides with an opening door. Motorists also have to be aware of pedestrians in crosswalks.

Challenges to liability or to who caused the accident are not uncommon in bicycle and pedestrian accidents with motor vehicles, especially where there are no independent witnesses. Retaining an experienced car accident attorney is vital since you can expect resistance from insurance adjusters.

Damages in Car Accident Claims

Damages are an essential element in any personal injury case. A skilled car accident attorney knows what documents, medical statements, police reports, witness statements, and other evidence are needed to demonstrate the nature and extent of your injuries and damages. In many car accident claims, damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Emotional distress
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

If a fatal accident, a wrongful death claim may be brought by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the immediate family members. Damages may include:

  • Medical expenses, if any, incurred before death
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of income to dependent family members
  • Loss of the decedents’ counsel, guidance, love, and advice
  • Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or deemed to be willful, or exhibited reckless disregard for the rights and safety of the plaintiff or victim

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain

A skilled car accident attorney is always essential if you want the most compensation for your injury claim. By retaining one of our attorneys from the law firm of Burns and Jain, you can be assured that your claim and your damages will be adequately presented, and all responsible parties held accountable. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free, in-depth discussion of your car accident injury or wrongful death case.