One — we hate to call it a “benefit,” so we’ll call it a “side effect” — of the coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders is that those who haven’t had to stay at home have had far less traffic to contend than they do during normal times.
There have been occasions during the middle of the day when there was virtually no traffic on South Mechanic Street at the Times-News building, and this was pretty much unprecedented.
The Associated Press reported that carbon dioxide emissions around the world declined 17% last month during the pandemic shutdown. (See: “Study: World carbon pollution falls ...,” May 20 Times-News, Page 2A.)
That’s unlikely to continue for the same reason traffic will get back to normal — the shutdowns are ending or being made less-restrictive, at least for the time being.
Traffic and air pollution may actually get worse in some places because people who had grown accustomed to using mass transit may now hesitate to go back to it and start driving their own cars.
We spent some time in traffic in the metropolitan Washington area several months ago, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and can’t imagine it being any worse than it was.
One thing we noticed was that with the exception of such things as buses and work trucks, very few of the vehicles had more than one occupant. Ours had a driver and four passengers, so we were able to drive pretty much by ourselves in the high-occupancy vehicle lane.
The New York Times reported last month that public transit agencies across the country are suffering, not just from declining ridership but also because of a drop in the sales taxes that help subsidize them.
In places, some motorists have been taking advantage of the decline in traffic to “punch it.”
A few weekends ago, Maryland State Police issued 13 citations to drivers who were going from 80 mph to more than 110 mph on the Capital Beltway.
One was said to be going 136 mph and was found to be driving while impaired after an officer finally managed to stop him.
Last weekend, troopers made 541 traffic stops and issued 401 citations and 309 warnings and made seven arrests across Maryland.
Troopers concentrated on the area of eastbound Interstate 70 approaching the ramp to I-695, where six jackknifed tractor-trailer crashes had taken place in recent months.
The cause for these wrecks was the same as it was for a rash of big-rig wrecks on I-68 going eastbound through Cumberland: speed too great for road conditions.
Increased enforcement seems to have reduced that problem, at least for now.
State police say they plan to continue increased-enforcement initiatives, now that the weather is warming up and traffic flow increases as the state reopens.
Obey the speed limits and other traffic laws, don’t drive aggressively or while you are impaired, and don’t drive while distracted.
Put the cellphone away, pay attention to what you’re supposed to be doing and wear your seat belt.
In other words, use good sense when you’re driving and don’t drive like the police aren’t around, because they are — and we should be glad for that.
Our highways are safer because of them. They can help you from becoming one of the traffic statistics we quote now and then.
State police spokesman Greg Shipley said, “We are seriously not trying to see how many citations we can issue, we’re trying to see how much safer we can make the highways and that’s what our goal is.
“There’s no sense in trying to keep yourself healthy if you’re not keeping yourself safe on the highway,” he said.