Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Traffic is Not Normal — Yet

But is ‘Normal’ a Good Thing?

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and GPS apps showed a 4% decrease in searches for directions. Gasoline consumption was down 25% to 35% as compared to last year. Our trips were shorter so most of us knew how to get where we were going (and BTW, I knew exactly where I was going — sometimes I prefer to take the long way and not tell anybody — plus, I’m sorry it was closed when we got there).

For the past three years, annual traffic fatalities have declined while miles traveled increased. Driving is unquestionably safer than it was 25 years ago. However, this year may be different…

Miles driven for 2020 will be less than last year — hard to say how much less. And unfortunately, with less traffic on the highways, there’s been a surge in high-speed driving. In some states, this has led to an increase in fatalities. In Minnesota for example, an official stated, “We have half the traffic with twice the fatalities.”

The purpose of our trips — our destinations — changed dramatically. Consumer trip data, for example, provides some interesting findings. Trips to the grocery/pharmacy spiked at the end of March as we hoarded non-perishable food, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Office supply stores spiked shortly thereafter as we purchased home office supplies (and home-schooling supplies). Restaurant sales collapsed with fine-dining hit the hardest (80%) and fast-food least affected (25%). And not surprisingly, grocery delivery sales increased a whopping 500% (so please don’t tell me you can’t find a job). And the industry hit the hardest is travel — hotel, car rental, cruise, airline — all down 80% or more.

Do we really want everything to go back to “normal” or is this an opportunity to re-invent how we eat, work, travel? Do we take pride in doing things because “That’s how we always do things” or could there be a better way? The old way is the safe way — but current circumstances have catalyzed a sense of creativity amongst the pioneers in the crowd — spawning new opportunities for travel, work, recreation, and socializing. Being normal should not be our goal — let’s do what’s best.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online ideas available at