Pandemic’s Silver Lining: Less Bloodshed on Commonwealth’s Roads

Though the total number of motor vehicle crashes has declined dramatically, reckless driving still killed three people in the City of Boston alone during the month of March.

An uninjured driver stands next to the SUV she flipped over while driving on Route 1 in Peabody on March 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts State Police.
An uninjured driver stands next to the SUV she flipped over while driving on Route 1 in Peabody on March 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts State Police.

Here’s a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic: with widespread “stay at home” orders in place, motor vehicle operators have fewer opportunities to maim and kill their victims on the Commonwealth’s streets.

In the 18-day period from March 15 and April 1, there were 1,044 crashes logged in the state’s crash data portal. Drivers in those crashes caused at least 396 non-fatal injuries, and caused 11 deaths.

To be sure, that’s a lot of unnecessary violence at a time of emergency when the state’s hospitals are already struggling to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases. But it’s nowhere near the amount of unnecessary violence that drivers would have caused in a more typical March.

In the same 18-day period of 2019, the state’s records show that there were 3,922 crashes. Drivers in those crashes killed 18 people, and injured 1,301 more.

Those numbers suggest that while the overall number of crashes has declined dramatically, the proportion of crashes that involved injuries has gone slightly up: during this period of 2019, 33 percent of crashes involved an injury; in 2020, it was 38 percent.

The decline in the number of crashes has been particularly dramatic in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, as illustrated in the maps below:

A cluster map of Boston-area crashes recorded from March 15, 2019 to April 1, 2019. Numerals in blue indicate clustered totals for crashes in each neighborhood; yellow circles indicate individual crashes. Courtesy of the MassDOT IMPACT crash database.
A map of Boston-area crashes recorded from March 15, 2019 to April 1, 2019. Numerals in blue indicate clustered totals for crashes in each neighborhood; yellow circles indicate individual crashes. Courtesy of the MassDOT IMPACT crash database.
A map of Boston-area crashes recorded during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (from March 15 to April 1, 2020). Numerals in blue indicate clustered totals for crashes in each neighborhood; yellow circles indicate individual crashes. Courtesy of the MassDOT IMPACT crash database.
A map of Boston-area crashes recorded during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (from March 15 to April 1, 2020). Numerals in blue indicate clustered totals for crashes in each neighborhood; yellow circles indicate individual crashes. Courtesy of the MassDOT IMPACT crash database.

Drivers still ended three lives in the City of Boston during March 2020. Victims included Stephen Salazar, 32, of Jamaica Plain, who crashed his motorcycle on I-90 in Allston on March 4th, an unidentified pedestrian who was killed by a driver outside Boston Medical Center on March 16th, and Joseph Lambright, 45, of Fall River, who died after crashing his Mercedes on Interstate 93 in Dorchester on March 29.

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