NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As millions look to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, we are taking a closer look at the traffic patterns in Nashville returning to pre-pandemic levels.
More than 39 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. That’s an increase of more than 8 percent from 2021, bringing travel volumes almost in line with those in 2017.
As part of TDOT’s SmartWay system, radar detection keeps track of vehicles so they can monitor traffic. Statewide Urban Freeway Trends indicate Tennessee traffic is about 5% less than traffic in 2019, Pre-Pandemic.
TDOT officials said there have been some noticeable changes and that the traffic patterns we are seeing today seem to be the “new normal.”
“Since September it’s probably remained fairly consistent and seeing there’s some peaks and valleys, but pretty consistent overall is what we’ve seen as the traffics return to sort of a new normal is what some people will call it, but I think you are seeing a lot of people they are working from home or they are doing different things so they aren’t having to travel that same time,” Nathan Vatter TDOT’s state traffic engineer told News 2.
In the peak of the pandemic, volume in Tennessee roadways dropped around 40 percent compared to 2019. The biggest drop was in April of 2020, but Vatter said the volume is back.
“Traffic has sort of returned to some what a different pattern since the pre-pandemic,” he explained.
Vatter said there is about 5 to 10 percent less traffic than in 2019 in Nashville. It’s the biggest reduction compared to other metro areas like Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga which have returned closer to normal.
TDOT numbers show we are seeing a slight decrease in drivers during the A.M. and P.M. peak drive times, pointing to more people working from home.
The most surprising change is in the overnight hours.
“Which is pretty surprisingly, but that’s been the biggest drop and we’ve seen like 30, 40 percent reduction in traffic overnight through the Nashville area,” said Vatter unable to pinpoint the reasoning.
He urged everyone to buckle up this holiday weekend and slow down as there have been more fatalities on the roadway post pandemic, with more than 13-hundred in 2021 higher than the previous decade.
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“I would expect a lot of people to be traveling this weekend. We’ve not seen a big dip since the fuel prices have gone up, so I would expect everybody is ready to get their Summer started and be safe on the road.”
Vatter said 46 percent of the people are killed in crashes are not wearing seatbelts.