Given that the country has been subject to various degrees of shutdown and associated quarantines, there is no wonder that traffic has slowed. Minnesotans have been doing their part staying indoors and working at home, where applicable, in response to Governor Tim Walz’s stay-at-home orders.
Look outside, and you can see the almost-empty roadways. Or for those of you who must travel somewhere, there is a (pleasantly) noticeable decrease in traffic.
According to a mid-April report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), traffic volume was down almost 40 percent from a year ago March, and each week shows a modest (around 10 percent) decrease from the previous week.
Other traffic trends
Using date from the MnDOT, the Metropolitan Council uncovered similar trends. Taking information from one thousand freeway traffic monitoring stations across the state, traffic has decreased by as much as 70 percent following Minnesota’s first reported COVID-19 case on March 6th. As officials took quick action to decrease the spread of the virus by enforcing distancing schemes, travel—and traffic—continued to decrease.
The Council’s graph demonstrates daily relative decline since March 1st across the Twin Cities metro freeways versus other statewide traffic volume. To obtain data, a statistical analysis of traffic from 2018, 2019, and pre-March 1st 2020.
Governor Walz wasted no time in implementing physical distancing efforts by canceling large gatherings and limiting restaurants to takeout only, and these efforts further worked to decrease traffic volume. These actions not only help state officials understand and monitor disease transmission but also inform policymakers as to further developments and efforts. Among these other efforts include how physical distancing efforts will impact pedestrians and bicycle riders.
The Council says it will continue to update its figures as more information arises and as restrictions increase or decrease.
A necessary benefit
Given that the volume of traffic has decreased, the state has seen a drastic reduction in DWI arrests.
In fact, there were 94 DWI arrests between March 27 and 30, compared to 293 arrests during the same period in 2019. Further, between March 20 and 23 of this year—before Walz’s order went into effect, there were 323 DWI arrests across the state.
Rise in fatal accidents
Despite the reduction in traffic and DWI arrests, there has been a worrisome increase in traffic fatalities. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, since March 16, there have been 24 fatal crashes causing 28 deaths. This is troubling considering that last year during the same time period, there were only 12 fatal crashes (13 deaths), 13 in 2018 (15 deaths), and 16 in 2017 (17 deaths.) Throughout this year thus far, there have been 76 traffic-related deaths versus 69 during the same time last year.
State troopers cite an increase in motorists either driving recklessly or speeding across the state, likely due to the significant reduction in traffic since the end of March. They also, however, cite Walz’s closure of bars and limiting restaurants to takeout only as being among the primary reasons for the decrease in DWIs.