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Pandemic Pause: Motorists Cut Driving Nearly in Half in Early Stage of COVID Crisis

by ECT

New AAA data shows that rideshare, transit, and taxi use plummeted, did not fully recover

WALNUT CREEK — New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s New American Driving Survey (2020) showed the average number of all daily car trips at the start of the pandemic dropped by 45% as COVID-19 and associated restrictions led to a drastic drop in road travel.  Daily trips rebounded in May and June but remained 20-25% below their 2019 levels during the remainder of 2020.

According to the research in April 2020: 

  • Trips by all modes of transportation plunged by 40%
  • The average number of daily trips for all modes of transportation fell from 3.7 trips per day (2019) to 2.2 trips.

Other key findings: 

  • Daily Car trips:  Fell from 3.2 pre-pandemic to 1.8 in April 2020, before rebounding slightly to 2.6 trips for the rest of 2020.
  • Travel by Urban Areas: Daily trips dropped 42% (compared to 25%  for those living in Suburban areas), before leveling off to a 20%-30% reduction.
  • Travel by transit, taxi, or rideshare: The proportion of people who reported making any trips by transit, taxi, or rideshare plummeted from 5.5% pre-pandemic to 1.7% in April of 2020, before leveling off at approximately 2.4% for the remainder of the year.
  • Commuter Travel: Work-related travel by all transportation modes dropped by 40% in April 2020, likely reflecting a mix of layoffs, job losses, and telecommuting. Commuting trips made by workers on days when they worked decreased by approximately 22%. For the remainder of the year, commuting trips were approximately 26% below pre-pandemic levels.

Car fatalities rise despite less travel in 2020

Despite fewer cars on the road and more people staying home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently estimated that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020 — an increase of about 7.2% over 2019 and the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.

The most recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI) found that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous. Yet, many drivers admitted to engaging in at least one of these behaviors in the 30 days prior to the survey.

“As the U.S. climbs out of the COVID-19 pandemic, highway safety officials will need to double down on curbing speeding, substance-impaired driving, and failure to buckle up,” said Sergio Avila, AAA Northern California spokesperson.

AAA urges drivers to keep everyone safe on the roads and warns drivers against falling back into bad driving habits.

Methodology: This study examined data from the AAA Foundation’s New American Driving Survey (New ADS), which surveys a representative sample of U.S. residents ages 16 years or older to collect detailed information about all of the travel they did on the day before the interview. The current study examines the mean daily number of trips made by U.S. residents each month among 7,873 respondents who were interviewed between July 1, 2019 (start of data collection for the New ADS) and December 31, 2020. In the New ADS, a trip refers to any travel from one place to another.

About the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by researching their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research develops educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users.

About AAA Northern California: AAA has a proud history of serving Members for over 100 years. AAA is on a mission to create Members for life by unleashing the innovative spirit of 4,600 employees representing 6 million Members across Northern California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. In addition to legendary roadside assistance, AAA offers home, auto and life insurance, travel and home security services. According to Via Magazine’s Smart Guide, being a AAA Member can save you more than $1,200 a year. Learn more at AAA.com.

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4 comments

Jaimoe Jul 17, 2021 - 10:42 am

Motorists didn’t do that, the fascist government did

Reply
Mrs. Jones Jul 18, 2021 - 4:33 am

While the COVID-19 pandemic was not a good thing. Reducing automobile travel by 45% was a blessing. There is no reason most people cannot work from home. The technology is there.

Reply
Suzanne Rogers Jul 18, 2021 - 10:07 pm

I agree! Another way to cut traffic is for the firms to locate satellite areas in places where most of their workers live. Their corporate offices can still be in San Fran, but the working offices scattered all over

Reply
Tracy Miller Jul 20, 2021 - 4:07 pm

I think traffic will be cut down again drastically now that the DELTA and LAMBDA variants are upon us. But this was predicted last year. It seems that August 2021 was the month these will hit hard. So, back to staying home and working out of there. We knew this was coming.

Reply

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