Now that we've entered Phase 2 re-opening, more people are out and about all around Rhode Island. Social gatherings can now include up to 15 people, and we're finally allowed to visit restaurants, go to the mall, and access personal care services like haircuts, massages, and gyms/fitness classes. Beaches and parks have also re-opened, just in time for summer weather.
After sheltering in place for so long, the opportunity to leave the house for non-essential reasons is a welcome reprieve. Unfortunately, it's not all good news. While lighter traffic during the pandemic resulted in a 66% decrease in accidents, this relative safety is disappearing as more drivers take to the roads. For some, such a long break from driving may result in complacency or inattention on the road. Being careful behind the wheel is always necessary, but right now, preventing accidents also helps keep ER populations low so the doctors fighting the pandemic aren't overwhelmed. You don't want to risk becoming one of them.
Traffic Is Increasing Again
Though not back up to normal levels, the Department of Transportation has noted increased traffic across the state:
- 4% on I-95
- 55% on I-195
- 59% on 1-295
These figures reflect changes since the beginning of the shutdown. The increase is likely due to commuters as well as people who want to enjoy the nice weather. As long summer weekends approach, we can expect families to spend more time outdoors. That means, barring a re-tightening of safety measures, traffic levels will likely remain higher than they have been in the last couple of months.
Is Driver Complacency Also to Blame for Accidents?
For drivers who were still called into work during the pandemic, empty roads have become the new norm. Both they and drivers who are re-adjusting to traveling by car should take more precautions than they're used to. During the shutdown, many drivers picked up bad habits like speeding or letting their phones distract them. While such behaviors are always dangerous, the decrease in traffic density may have allowed people to get away with things that might cause a car accident now. Watch out for these drivers whether you're staying in the neighborhood or venturing onto a freeway.
All of us can also do our part by checking in with ourselves before we get behind the wheel. Many people are still under considerable stress, which can itself be a distraction. All we can control while we're on the road is our own behavior, but often, that can be the difference between a close call and a bad accident.
What to Do If You're Involved in an Accident During the Pandemic
Traffic safety depends on everyone working together and following the rules—and when one person acts negligently, you may end up in an accident despite being a careful and defensive driver yourself. If you are in this position, it's important to do everything you can to protect your rights.
The pandemic may be on everyone's minds, but it's not an excuse for the other driver (and their insurer) to get out of paying your claim. To speed the process and make sure you're offered a fair deal, make sure you take these steps after an accident:
- Document the damage via photos, videos, notes, or voice memos. Do this at the scene if possible, and get witness information to back up your claim.
- Go to the doctor's office. Even if you don't think you're hurt, you should visit your doctor or an urgent care facility for a checkup. Sometimes car accident injuries don't become apparent until a few days after the collision. It's important to get a full check-up to make sure you know the extent of the medical care you might need.
- Call an attorney. Often, insurance adjusters will try to reach out to you quickly after an accident so they can get your comments on the record before you have a representative. If they try this, tell them you'll have your attorney reach out—and then call us right away.
Though we've faced many changes in the past few months, car accidents are still a danger. Anyone who is hit by a negligent driver should know how they can protect their right to a settlement. For as long as dangerous drivers cause accidents, we'll be here to fight for you.