It should come as no surprise that traffic accidents have declined in the US since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There are several near-term impacts of having fewer cars on the road.

How are the accidents that still occur being handled? In what ways will insurance companies respond? How will driver behavior change? Let’s explore each of these areas.

A change in accident response

With fewer cars on the road and more help needed on the front lines of the pandemic, responding officers may be handling accidents differently. In some areas of the country, responses are limited to emergency situations only.

If police don’t respond to the scene of an accident, the drivers involved in the crash will need to take photos and exchange information.  If you are involved in a crash and the other driver admits responsibility for the accident, we recommend that you politely ask the other driver if they will provide a short description of the crash that you can record on your smartphone.  It is also important to obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses.

Speeding, distracted driving, and anxious drivers on low-traffic roads

Those who are still on the road might adopt new driving behaviors that result in accidents. While fewer cars are on the road, certain areas have seen spikes in car accident cases due to speeding, distracted driving, and anxious drivers.  Many law enforcement agencies are reporting an increase in speeding tickets issued to drivers speeding at more than 100 mph.

Auto insurers give money back to policyholders

Since COVID-19 is keeping cars off the road, some auto insurers are dealing with fewer claims by providing customers with refunds—whether voluntarily or through state orders. Drivers are receiving refunds ranging from 15-20% from major auto insurers in large part due to the decline in accidents.

If economic difficulties persist, we can expect to see an increase in the number of uninsured drivers.

Post-pandemic commuting could drive an increase in cars on the road in some areas and a decrease in others

The post-COVID-19 era has many unknowns, but a Bloomberg Opinion columnist recently predicted that we could have more traffic jams than before as commuters who normally relied on public transit opt to drive themselves to work.   In Wuhan, automobile sales have risen since the peak of the crisis as many consumers view personal vehicle commutes as safer than using public transportation.  This is likely to be more of an issue in metropolitan areas where more people rely on public transportation and is not likely to be a significant issue in our part of Florida.

We expect that there will an increase in the number of people who work from home and the number of students who home-school, even after things return to normal.  We may also see that some forms of social distancing will continue for an extended period of time.  For these reasons, we predict that we may see a long-term reduction in vehicle traffic.