Empty Roads Mean More Street Racing — And Speeding Tickets

The first Cannonball Run record during the pandemic won’t be the last

Red Aston Martin
It's not just gearheads who are speeding on America's streets. It's normal drivers. too.
Nate Johnston/Unsplash

On Thursday, April 9 it was reported that the record for the infamous coast-to-coast street race known as the Cannonball Run had been broken. The empty roads and lower police presence due to the coronavirus pandemic seem to have played a big part in the unprecedented attempt, but as The New York Times wrote, “Past record-holders expect the mark to fall again in the coming weeks, and maybe again and again …”

The paper delves into the current intersection between the coronavirus outbreak and street racing, especially how emptier roads across the country have enticed both gearheads and normal drivers alike. 

“In California, the spike in speeding tickets for driving more than 100 miles per hour — 543 citations written by the highway patrol over 10 days in March — grew in inverse proportion to the cars on the road,” writes the Times. Similar spikes are seen in the data up the coast in Portland, Oregon and across the country in New York City.

The reasoning seems to be equal parts temptation and, on par with many of the beliefs about COVID-19, fake news. We don’t need to tell you that an open freeway with no cars, black and white or otherwise, can give anyone the lead foot. But officers told the Times that some drivers are under the impression that police aren’t pulling people over for speeding during the pandemic, which is not true.

Part of the temptation to speed is the assumption that now is a safer time to test the chops of your car. And while the Times points to data showing that there are fewer collisions in New York, they fail to mention that in other parts of the country traffic deaths are actually going up. In Minnesota, the Star Tribune recently reported a spike in fatal crashes, half of which “were related to motorists who were speeding or to careless or negligent driving.”

Yes, going for a drive is a great way to get out of the house while social distancing, but skip the street racing and opt for a leisurely cruise instead.

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