By: Tosimaeʻa Tupua
As the COVID-19 virus swept across the Territory, it led to fewer drivers on the roads and a significant reduction in the number of miles driven. And yet, data from police shows the number of driving under the influence, speeding, non-seat belt use along with an increase in crashes surged during the period of February to May 2022.
Data received by KVZK News indicate that while most drivers reduced their driving during the Covid 19 outbreak a small proportion actually increased their driving. Making matters worse, those who increased their driving appeared to be riskier than average, even after accounting for their age, gender, and how much they drove.
According to Deputy Commissioner Terry Letuli speed-related citations and drink-driving arrests are rising during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, October 2021 to May 2022, a total of 52 driving under the influence citations were issued. During the lockdown 11 DUI citations were issued by Police. “Although only 11 DUI citations were issued during the lockdown, the number of speeding citations hit a record high of 599 compared to the same period last year, said Letuli. He continued, “A drop in cars on the road may have encouraged some drivers to drive at higher speeds and panic-buying of alcohol during the lockdown could have led to an increase in the number of people driving under the influence at the time”
Data from the office of police show the number of child passenger safety citations issued between February and May this year were 108, seat belt citations 373 and minor crashes 81. No fatalities recorded. Letuli said we’re not going to fully know what COVID has done to us as a society for years to come. “I think it’s clear that it’s disruptive, and that it has made people vulnerable. Many people stuck at home during quarantine began day drinking to deal with the stress”, stated Letuli. “The solution is not simple, but it’s certainly important to maintain a sense of wellbeing and connectedness despite the challenges. It’s also important that we keep educating and reminding others about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drug”, stated Letuli With nightclubs set to open until 2am starting this week, Deputy Commissioner Letuli said, “leave your car at home and take a taxi. If you drive, do it sober, undistracted, and with a little bit of extra caution this year”.