The California Highway Patrol said freeways aren't just emptier since the shutdown, they're more dangerous.
The reason? More drivers than ever are speeding.
“It’s not hard to catch speeders,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Sal Castro, standing outside his patrol car along the shoulder of the State Route 163 northbound near Clairmont Mesa Boulevard.
He showed NBC 7 the results on his radar gun, back to back reads, almost all of them, above 85 mph. The speed limit is 65.
“Speeds picked up as soon as the freeways were less congested,” Castro said.
He said his officers are busier, pulling over dangerously fast drivers, and that’s not unique to San Diego.
Statewide, in just the first month of the pandemic, highway patrol officers handed out 87% more speeding tickets than during the same time last year to drivers going more than 100 mph.
To put that into perspective, in just that one month, officers handed out nearly 2,500 tickets to drivers going more than 100 mph. Last year, it was fewer than half at around 1,300.
And officers don't think it's a coincidence there were also 35% fewer drivers on the road.
By the way, things got worse - not better - as the shutdown progressed.
This past Memorial Day, officers wrote 458 tickets to drivers going over 100 – that’s a 187% spike from the year prior.
“It’s a big problem when you think about it,” Castro said. “Because these speeds, one bad move could mean catastrophe. One bad move could mean the difference between an injury accident or fatal traffic collision.”
So far in 2020, Castro says 28 people have died in a crash on the freeway in the San Diego area. He says the number of deadly crashes is up since the shutdown.