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Returning to the Road: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Risk Advisory

April 30, 2020

With the majority of the United States maintaining shelter in place and safe social distancing measures, our cars have also been practicing social distancing from each other. Over the last few months, the congestion and overall traffic on highways and main roads have been cleared for professional drivers to provide goods and services to our essential businesses.

The Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis published a study showing crashes have been cut in half between Feb. 27 and April 11 compared to the same time last year. The report estimates this is a savings to the State of California of about $1 Billion dollars during this time frame. Additional reports around the country are providing similar statistics. In Indianapolis, car crash reports are down 27%.

This has also had an effect on air quality, gasoline and oil pricing, and personal auto insurance premiums, as discussed in our previous post, How is COVID-19 Impacting My Car Insurance? What is not being discussed is what will happen once everyone is back on the road again. And more importantly, how do we prevent a spike in accidents once we return to the road?

Until Level 5 of vehicle autonomy is reached, the human element in driving will always be a factor. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 400,000 people are injured a year as a result of distracted driving.

Furthermore, a NHTSA study in 2015 shows that “decision error such as driving too fast for conditions, too fast for the curve, false assumption of others’ actions, illegal maneuver and misjudgment of gap or others’ speed accounted for about 33 percent of the crashes” for that year.

Over the next month, drivers will be returning to the road as more businesses reopen. The surge of drivers back on the road will be the equivalent of the first snowstorm, or rain after the dry season, where it seems like everyone on the road is driving for the very first time. Those returning to work will be learning to drive again. Below are some guidelines and suggestions to be aware of when commuting to work begins as the country is re-opened:

  • Keep a closer eye than normal on the other driver’s behavior. Daily commuters will have been out of practice for almost two months or more and may not be as comfortable driving as they once were.  This could cause erratic driving behavior including hard braking or aggressive lane changing due to following too close or poor reaction times.
  • For those who never stopped driving, there may have been complacency that set in with the empty roadways. Extra attention to those returning to the road will be needed.
  • Be patient! Unless you are driving over a very long distance, going 15mph over the speed limit will only save you seconds on your drive. Keep a safe distance and do not let another driver’s aggressive behavior dictate your own driving actions.
  • Check your vehicle before returning to work. During the shelter in place due to COVID-19, the weather across the entire country as fluctuated. Constant changes in temperature can effect your tire pressure. Additionally, vehicles sitting for prolonged times could have issues with brake pads and rotors. Having a professional to check both your tire pressure and brakes is recommended, or at the very least drive around your area to check your brakes for any issues.

In addition to the above suggestions, this may also be a great time to revisit your business’ driver training program. Oswald has an online-based risk management center that can assist with your driver, safety, and HR-related training.

Should you have any questions, please contact us direct or learn more from our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Jim Paluf
Risk Management Consultant


(Sources:,,, nhtsa,gov,

Note: This communication is for informational purposes only. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Oswald makes no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held liable for any outdated or incorrect information. View our communications policy.