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Research Provides Insights into Pandemic Effects on Traffic and Traffic Safety

Posted: Oct 4, 2023

Researchers at North Dakota State University and the University of Utah studied traffic in the Salt Lake City area to learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted traffic and traffic safety. Most transportation research to date has focused on the early stages of the pandemic, but this study examined traffic patterns and crash trends throughout the pandemic.

They found that crash frequency was significantly less than pre-pandemic levels during the entire course of the pandemic. However, crash frequency increased during the latter stage of the pandemic because of relaxed restrictions. Crash severity levels increased during the earlier stages of the pandemic due to the increased speed, prevalence of DUI, reduced seat belt use, and increased presence of commercial vehicles, but later returned to pre-pandemic levels. Vehicular traffic decreased during the early stage of the pandemic because of government restrictions and individuals' risk perception in traveling, but increased as travel restrictions were relaxed and COVID vaccines became available. They also found that truck traffic at the latter stage of the pandemic was higher than before the pandemic because of the growth of online shopping and on-demand delivery.

The research provides valuable insights into how the pandemic affected traffic, contributing to more effective transportation planning and decision-making, and introduces a new way to predict traffic using a mix of machine learning and graph theory.

Pan Lu, Ph.D.
North Dakota State University

Knowledge-Based Machine Learning for Freeway COVID-19 Traffic Impact Analysis and Traffic Incident Management

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050