How COVID-19 has changed our driving habits

How COVID-19 has changed our driving habits | Insurance Business

How COVID-19 has changed our driving habits

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on personal mobility in the United States. According to Arity, a mobility data analytics company founded by Allstate, there has been a 65% decrease in driving since before the first statewide shelter-in-place order was mandated in California on March 19. Since then, Arity has been analyzing driving data from its 23 million connections countrywide to produce pandemic reports, covering: active drivers on the roads, number of trips and miles driven, and the behaviors of those who are driving.

“When the pandemic hit, we realized we could play a role in helping people understand what was happening, how the pandemic was progressing and how it was impacting people’s mobility,” said Robert Nendorf (pictured), director of data science at Arity. “We knew a lot was changing, and with our data set, we knew we had some unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on personal mobility.

“We’re using data from our 23 million connections, which is anonymized and aggregated to various levels, and we’re sharing it to help people understand what the pandemic is doing to our core driving metrics. We’re answering questions like: How many people are on the road each day? How many trips are they taking? How many miles are they driving? How are their driving behaviors changing? What’s the mix of people on the road? We’re looking at how those numbers evolve over time to help people understand how the roads are changing.”

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It was early in March when Arity started noticing significant changes in driving behavior, with the number of daily active drivers (those taking at least one trip per day) dropping by about 30% through March 22. Daily active drivers dropped down to around 40% during the pandemic’s peak in early April, but that started to pick back up by the end of the month. The number of miles driven per connection also went down by 44% countrywide during this period, and so did the number of serious collisions.

“Our crash detection numbers have definitely changed,” Nendorf told Insurance Business. “With fewer miles driven, we’ve seen fewer crashes. The really interesting thing that’s frankly quite troubling is that we’re seeing about a 50% increase in crashes above 70mph. Those are the ones that can cause really serious health outcomes and whatnot. The number of high-speed crashes has gone up, whereas the number of lower speed crashes has gone down. Overall, collisions are going down with miles driven, which is what you’d expect with less exposure on the road - but people are driving differently.”

Speeding is one of the driving behaviors where Arity has seen population-level changes that are very broad. On average, speed was up by a couple of miles per hour relative to the speed limit. What’s more concerning is that the data analytics firm has seen at least a 30% increase in the rate at which people are driving over 100mph sometime during their trip.

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The firm also tracks behaviors like aggressive braking and aggressive acceleration. While aggressive braking has generally tracked with 2019 numbers throughout the pandemic, Arity has seen a drop off in aggressive acceleration. This happened right about the same time that miles driven started to go down, around March 08.

“Under normal conditions, we tend to see more aggressive acceleration during the weekdays,” said Nendorf. “Monday through Friday, you see a fair bit of aggressive acceleration, and on Saturday it drops down significantly, and then Sunday it drops down even more. It seems like this aggressive acceleration behavior [under normal conditions] is driven by motivating you to drive, so it seems to be a commuting behavior.

“What we’ve seen once the pandemic really started changing behaviors is that in March and April of 2020, the numbers don’t have those spikes anymore. They’re all down - every day looks like a Sunday or a Saturday. Intuitively, in this [pandemic] that we’ve been experiencing, the notion of commuting to work is just not there because we’re all working from home, and the notion between how you drive on a weekday and the weekend is all blurred together. We actually see that in our data. That decrease in aggressive acceleration is probably mostly driven by the fact that people aren’t commuting to work as they were before the pandemic.”

In reflection of the ever-changing coronavirus situation, Arity is releasing updated statistics and insights on the impact of COVID-19 on the personal mobility sector every couple of weeks.