Is Recreational Driving Increasing During COVID-19?

Recreational driving, also referred to as a Sunday drive or leisurely driving, may be increasing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Research conducted by the traffic analytic company Streetlight Data found that traffic volume increased shortly after stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders were initially implemented. This increase occurred after an initial drop in traffic volume. Because of this, some driving experts speculate that individuals were participating in recreational driving during the Coronavirus pandemic. While the increase in recreational driving can offer relaxation or entertainment benefits, it may also contribute to roadways being more dangerous during COVID-19.

Details on COVID-19 Driving Trends

In the released report, Streetlight Data noted that there was a historic low in national vehicle miles traveled around the second week of April when many states were implementing strict COVID-19 safety measures. However, traffic volume began steadily increasing despite many quarantine orders remaining in place. Some areas experienced a 200 percent increase in traffic volume by mid-May. This includes coastal areas in Massachusetts and Maine, which experienced the increase despite beaches and other recreational areas remaining closed.

Some advocates argue that the volume spike is too large to be explained by individuals more frequently shopping at essential businesses, such as grocery stores. Additionally, some experts received anecdotal accounts of people driving for entertainment or relaxation. Specifically, some reports noted that individuals are taking recreational drives to leave a noisy household or to have a change of scenery.


Are Roads More Dangerous During COVID-19?

In addition to recreational driving, another driving trend during the Coronavirus pandemic may be an increase in reckless driving. On October 1, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a preliminary report on fatal driving accidents for the first half of 2020. The researchers found that the automobile accident fatality rate was 1.25 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first half of 2020, a 16 percent increase from 2019.

“In addition to car drivers, more dangerous roads can present a threat to pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Bennett Schiller of Schiller & Hamilton Law Firm. “This is significant as more people may be exercising outdoors during COVID-19.”

When examining the data, NHTSA officials stated that an increase in reckless and impaired driving might account for the increased death rate. Specifically, an NHTS report noted that trauma centers experienced an increase in severely and fatally injured drivers testing positive for alcohol use or illegal substances. In some cases, such as with opioid use, the positive test rate nearly doubled.


Background on Recreational Driving

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), traveling for sight-seeing has been prevalent since ancient times. Recreational travel gained in popularity as road quality in the United States increased. Additionally, leisure driving gained a surge in popularity during the early 20th century when Henry Ford became an early proponent of weekend drives. This prompted advertising for the Model-T car that showcased the benefits of leisurely driving.


Safe Driving Best Practices

There are several precautions that recreational drivers can take to reduce the likelihood of an automobile accident occurring. Maintaining a safe distance for other vehicles, preparing for unexpected actions from other drivers, and adapting driving for weather conditions could help ensure safety while traveling. Additionally, reducing distractions and avoiding confrontations while driving could help prevent a collision.

Hemant Kumar
Hemant Kumar is a project manager at Tridindia with more than nine years of commendable experience in writing about LMS, translation, and IT. His unmatched talent and passion for digital marketing gave him the opportunity to work as a multi-tasking project manager at TridIndia’s sister company, Link Building Corp. Today, he contributes to the world by imparting knowledge on SEO, link building and internet marketing etc., that helps business owners grow their online business.