When Gov. Ralph Northam first issued the stay-at-home order for Virginia in March, the result was hundreds of less cars on the roads.
More people are working from home and staying in, so the roads are clearer which means less tickets, fewer accidents and more time for road construction.
According to numbers from StreetLight Data, which tracks national mobility data, Williamsburg saw a 71 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled than average, James City County a 64 percent decrease and York County a 53 percent decrease.
With less vehicles on the road, fewer people have been receiving traffic tickets.
Between March 1 and May 18 last year, the York Poquoson Sheriff’s Office issued 983 traffic tickets but during that same period for 2020, there were only 391 tickets.
Similarly the James City County Police Department gave 1,049 traffic tickets between March and May 18 of 2019, according to data from the police department. But during that same period for 2020, there were only 206 traffic tickets issued.
Stephanie Williams, spokeswoman for JCCPD, said those numbers are indicative of officers being encouraged to use discretion in regards to enforcement. The department’s goal has been to be more diligent with protective and preventive measures, such as placing patrols in residential and commercial areas for high visibility.
“As Phase I begins in Virginia and traffic volume increases, we anticipate the number of traffic summons being issued to increase,” Williams said. “Officers have continued to enforce more serious traffic violations and will continue to take steps to ensure highway safety.”
However, the Williamsburg Police Department hasn’t seen a similar big decrease in traffic tickets. According to data from police, the department issued 888 traffic citations between March 1 and May 18 of 2019. But despite the lack of traffic on the road, there were still 843 tickets issued between the same time period for 2020.
Charles Ericsson, spokesman for WPD, said the department was worried that if traffic enforcement was eliminated then it would increase the amount of traffic crashes and the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to EMS workers.
“Also, during these uncertain times, we knew the risk of other crimes of opportunity could see an increase,” Ericsson wrote in an email. “Traffic enforcement and high visibility in our community is a great way to deter crime and catch potential criminals in the act. Our goal is to keep everyone as safe as absolutely possible.”
Less traffic on the roads is also beneficial to construction projects.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has taken advantage of this time by evaluating requests from contractors for potential flexibility in their schedules of allowable work hours, said Brittany McBride Nichols, communications specialist for VDOT.
VDOT has been able to extend some hours for lane closures which allows construction on certain projects to move at a faster pace.
“In some cases, we have been able to extend the work hours so that crews have more time each day available to complete their tasks,” Nichols wrote in an email.
For example, closing expansion joints and the application of a new bridge deck overlay were able to happen on the bridge rehabilitation work on the westbound Route 199 bridge over College Creek.
But as the state continues to reopen, VDOT and local police departments expect the number of drivers on the road to steadily increase.
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