Vermont law enforcement officials believe an increase in the number of traffic fatalities recorded so far this year could be linked to fewer police on the road because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So far this year there have been 43 traffic fatality deaths, up from 21 at the same point last year.
While 2019 was a record low year, this year’s fatality numbers are on pace to hit a five-year high.
Statistics show that through September 1, the number of people apprehended for speeding faster than 99 miles per hour is also up. Last year, 107 people were caught going faster than 99 mph. This year, the figure is 125.
Bill Jenkins of the state Highway Safety Office says there is no single reason for the increase in fatalities, but since the pandemic started, there have been fewer police patrolling the road.
“When you drive around, people seem to be speeding more. They seem to be looking at their phones more. They do not see law enforcement out as much as they used to,” Jenkins said. “I think some people, unfortunately, got the message that they could do things that they shouldn’t be doing.”
The Times Argus reports that of the 43 deaths, 26 of them took place in June and July as the state was opening back up from the pandemic-induced shutdowns.
“Things were really shut down and quiet in March and April,” Jenkins said. “May was kind of a transition…July was the worst month we’ve had since 2008, with 15 fatalities.”
On Thursday, the Vermont Health Department reported seven new positive cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Of the new cases, four were in Chittenden County, and one each in Franklin, Bennington and Washington counties.
Since the pandemic began, Vermont has had a total of just under 1,640 total cases.
There have been 58 deaths.
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