Pedal to the metal! The expression urges someone to move quickly. During pandemic lockdowns, many motorists did just that. Now with more cars on the roads, police worry drivers aren’t slowing down.
Highway deaths in 2020 were the highest in more than a decade—even though Americans drove fewer miles during that time. U.S. traffic studies reveal alarming reasons for the higher death tolls. They include more drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs, a downtick in seatbelt use, and the number one reason: increased speed.
“People are flying down the roads,” Maine State Police Corporal Doug Cropper said of summer traffic on Interstate 95, adding, “It’s just ridiculous.”
From January to June, the California Highway Patrol issued tickets for speeds over 100 miles per hour at nearly double pre-pandemic levels. Reckless driving citations numbers zoomed up as well.
New York saw the same ticket surge—along with a rise in the percentage of deaths caused mainly by speeding.
Extreme speeding dates to the early days of the pandemic. As police handled civil unrest (see Seattle Closes Occupied Zone and Presidents Vandalized in OR) and scaled back routine safety stops, some lightly traveled roads became speedways.
Transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman credits several factors. He says motorists often put too much faith in air bags, anti-lock brakes, and other safety features. Some drivers feel emboldened by the lack of enforcement, while others simply go with the flow.
In New York City, supercars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis blazed down empty streets, with roaring engines disturbing residents. Motorists from coast to coast received tickets for extreme speeds.
Several lead-footed drivers took advantage of the absence of law enforcement to set new records on an illegal, nonstop race from coast to coast called the Cannonball Run.
What a sad commentary on humankind! Not only does the Bible command Christians not to give in to lawbreakers (Proverbs 1:10) but it also reminds us that God sees everyone and everything (Psalm 33:13).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration thought fatalities would decline with fewer miles driven during the pandemic. Instead, they grew and even increased late last year.
To address the speeding problem, some police departments are launching anti-speeding campaigns. But according to Pam Shadel Fischer of the Governors Highway Safety Association, the best cure for speeding and bad behavior remains flashing blue lights.
“High visibility enforcement works,” she says. “When people see police officers, they will think twice about what they’re doing.”
How does the speeding phenomenon relate to the story of how Hagar called God “a God of seeing”? (Genesis 16:13)
Did You Know…?
In May 2020, Fred Ashmore set a solo record for the “Cannonball Run,” a race from New York to Los Angeles. Ashmore’s breakneck trip lasted just 25 hours, 55 minutes. He called New York a “ghost town” as he sped away, topping out at 159 mph and averaging about 108 mph over the 2,806-mile trip.
“There’s no person who’s never sped,” Ashmore says, justifying his law-breaking trek. “I just sped faster and longer.”
Why? God sets boundaries for our good, and so do governments. But fallen people are naturally lawbreakers, and this news story shows the sad reality of that being worked out.
Pray: For sensitive hearts to God’s laws and those of His “ordained powers”; for law enforcement officers who are charged with protecting people and enforcing laws.