MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – One side effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic – and the counter-measures imposed to fight it – can be seen in plummeting highway accidents.
According to statistics provided by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, accidents investigated by state troopers plunged 43 percent this month compared with last month. Accidents were down 48 percent compared to April 2019.
The decline was similar in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Accidents declined 41 percent this month compared with last month. They are down 54 percent over April of last year.
It’s a similar story with traffic deaths. Highway fatalities statewide declined by 58 percent from March to April, and by 42 percent from April a year ago. Troopers in Mobile and Baldwin have worked only one fatality this month, a motorcycle accident in Grand Bay.
“It’s pretty unusual for around here. … That kind of stood out,” ALEA spokesman Lt. Joe Piggott told FOX10 News on Wednesday.
Total accidents were down somewhat in March statewide, and by a greater degree in southwest Alabama. But the decline greatly accelerated in April, after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order closing certain non-essential businesses and asking residents to work from home as much as possible.
The ALEA data cover only wrecks worked by troopers, not local police agencies. But it offers a snapshot at how much of an impact the state-at-home order had.
“Traffic is noticeably lighter,” Piggott said.
He added that he would have thought there would have been a sharper decline in March.
“I was a little surprised when I saw those numbers. … It wasn’t as big a change as I thought,” he said.
The statistics track with data kept by the Alabama Department of Transportation from car counters along Interstates 10 and 65. Traffic volume from April 5 to April 23 was off by almost half – 46.4 percent – compared with the same period in 2019.
One consequence of less congestion, however, may be a tendency for drivers who are on the roads to step on the gas. Piggott said social media posts from other state law enforcement agencies point to that, and he added that he has seen it in Alabama, as well.
“It seems like the speeds are increasing on the highways,” he said. “We’ve clocked quite a few at triple digits.”