SALT LAKE CITY — Many people are still working from home, but an uptick in recreational travel is keeping Utah's road traffic about as busy as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Utah Department of Transportation spokesman.
UDOT traffic experts say there were periods during the pandemic when traffic flow decreased to about 60 percent of the normal capacity, but the volume of traffic now is close to the pre-pandemic amount.
"What we’ve learned over the last few months is that traffic volumes are about what they were prior to the pandemic but more people are visiting national parks, they’re doing different types of trips, they’re not all commuting to work, there is a lot of work at home...but overall the traffic volumes are about what they were prior to the pandemic," said UDOT spokesman John Gleason.
Although the daily volume of traffic is about the same, there is less congestion during morning and evening rush hours.
"We’re not seeing as much congestion out there because people are traveling at different times," Gleason said.
Despite the periods of decreased traffic volume, more people died in crashes on Utah roads in 2020 than in 2019. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, there were 248 fatalities on Utah roads in 2019, and 2020 saw 281 fatalities on Utah roads.
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Nick Street said not only were death totals higher, but a number of other hazardous driving statistics went up, even with fewer people driving.
UHP reported there were nearly 2,000 more drivers clocked at traveling over 100 miles per hour in 2020 than there were the year prior. Pursuits in 2020 were also up 30 percent over those in 2019.
In 2019, there 16 reported road rage incidents in Utah, a number that nearly doubled to 31 in 2020.
Street said it's possible that with fewer people on the roads due to people staying at home during the pandemic, drivers get more brazen and pay less attention when traffic is virtually nonexistent.