PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 4, 2020) – Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the Philadelphia five-county area, will move into the yellow reopening phase on Friday, June 5, following more than two months under a stay-at-home order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  As the region begins to reopen and motorists return to their normal driving patterns – returning to work, visiting family and friends – traffic safety advocates fear pent up demand and lack of ‘behind the wheel’ experience for nearly three months could lead to an increase in crashes. 

“We urge motorists to remember the rules of the road as they return to their regular driving habits,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “After weeks of not driving regularly, many are out of practice behind the wheel.  It is critical for the safety of all road users that motorists obey traffic laws, reduce speed, eliminate distractions behind the wheel, and don’t drink and drive in order to prevent unnecessary tragedies on our roadways.” 

With fewer cars on the roads, some motorists are driving at reckless speeds over the past few months.  Speed has contributed to serious and sometimes fatal crashes, as motorists take to open roads and push the boundaries of speed limits, as well as laws for drunk driving.  As the region begins to reopen and return to the roads, it is critical that motorists follow posted speed limit signs and other rules of the road to ensure safety of all road users.  Just like anything else, if you haven’t engaged in an activity for months on end, it will take time to regain confidence and ability to where it feels natural again. 

As counties in the Philadelphia region move into the yellow phase of reopening and “Stay at Home Orders” are adjusted, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reminds motorists that traffic safety must be top priority when behind the wheel. 

“Traffic volumes will start to increase as we move into the yellow stage, and now more than ever we need everyone to drive safe so that crashes do not occur that can add unnecessary strains to our hospitals’ emergency rooms during Covid-19, said Robyn Briggs, PennDOT Safety Press Officer. “We know everyone is excited to get out a little more, but motorists must slow down, put their phones down, buckle up, and watch for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Even though the Philadelphia region traffic volumes were at a 40 percent reduction since the Stay-At-Home order was enacted, as of May 18, the area still saw crashes due to impaired driving, speeding, and distracted driving. Pedestrians and bicyclists are also very active in communities. PennDOT wants to remind both groups to practice social distancing and walk 6 feet apart from others not in your household. Motorists must yield to pedestrians crossing the street at marked and unmarked intersections, as well as allow four feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle at a prudent speed.

During the yellow phase of re-opening and traffic increases, the Pennsylvania State Police will continue to strictly enforce speed and reckless driving. From March through May of 2020 the Pennsylvania State Police wrote 51,509 traffic citations across the state. 

“We cannot stress enough the importance of obeying the rules of the road,” said Jessica Tobin, Community Service Officer, Pennsylvania State Police. “During the red phase of this pandemic we have seen a significant decrease in traffic, however there are still many crashes occurring as a result of speed and reckless driving.” 

The Pennsylvania State Police have investigated 4,323 crashes from March 14th through May 22nd.  In Troop K three of our own members patrol vehicles have been hit while conducting investigations on the interstate.  The Pennsylvania State Police have made 2,045 DUI arrests from March 14th through May 22nd

As the Philadelphia-area moves to the yellow phase of reopening, AAA urges motorists to return to the roads safely by:

  • Obeying posted speed limits
  • Stop at red lights and stop signs
  • Avoid distractions – anything that takes your eyes off the road
  • Never drink and drive

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research finds that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous, yet many admit to having engaged in these activities while behind the wheel – a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.  For example:

Distracted Driving – looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash. Nearly 3,000 people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, contributing to the 36,560 lives lost to crashes on U.S. roadways. Anything that diverts attention from driving – eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, or picking your next podcast, talking to other passengers, or talking or texting on the phone—can result in a fatal injury.

Aggressive Driving – more than half of drivers (55%) view speeding 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway as extremely or very dangerous and (64%) perceive speeding (10 mph over the speed limit) on a residential street just as dangerous. Yet, nearly half admit to driving over these speed limits. 

Impaired Driving – most drivers (94%) perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous. However, almost 10% admitted to having done so.

If you observe a motorist driving erratically, Pennsylvania State Police encourage you to contact 911 with as much identifiable information for the vehicle as possible (color, make, model, and registration plate number if possible).

Road Ready

Motorists should also consider getting their vehicles ready to return to the road after nearly three months of limited use.  Now is the time to have vehicles checked over and ready for summer driving.  AAA encourages you to take some simple steps to keep you and your vehicle safe: 

  • Don’t Short Change a Short Trip - drive your vehicle(s) once a week to ensure the battery stays properly charged, even if that is just around the corner.
  • Gas Goes a Long Way – keep your gas tank level at three-fourths or full. Full tanks provide less space for air and help minimize the possibility of condensation.
  • Fluid Situation – check oil, brake fluid, automatic transmission fluid, power steering fluid and windshield washer fluid. Replace or re-fill as needed by consulting your owner’s manual.
  • Under Pressure - check the tire pressure and fill, as needed, to the proper inflation amount located inside the driver’s door.
  • Returning to the road – as an added precaution, consider taking your vehicle to a AAA Car Care Center or AAA Approved Auto Repair facility for service. Make sure to call first for shop hours and procedures for bringing in a car for service.
  • Battery trouble – if you do find your car won’t start once you’re ready to go – AAA offers mobile battery service, which will 1) come to wherever you’re located, 2) perform a diagnostic test of your electrical system, 3) replace your battery right on the spot if needed.

Follow us on Twitter: @AAAPhillyNews

AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and more than 3.2 million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile appss for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit www.AAA.com.

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