If you've been out and about since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, you’ve probably noticed traffic has been a lot lighter than usual — but some drivers seem to be going a lot faster than they normally do.

Now we get word from the head of the New Jersey State Police traffic pursuits, accidents and fatalities have been rising.

During Gov. Phil Murphy's thrice-weekly novel coronavirus update on Monday in Trenton, NJSP Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said in areas patrolled by the State Police, “in pursuits we’ve seen a 50% increase (over this time 2019) and we’re probably on track to have the highest number of pursuits in our history of keeping records on that.”

He said looking at the number of pursuits there were “102 in 2019, year to date. As of today in 2020, 153. We’re on track to have 260 pursuits.”

Callahan also said accident crashes are up 34 percent, and fatalities are up 10 percent.

So what’s causing these traffic problems?

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“The amount of accidents and the amount of fatalities, and whether that’s for lighter traffic, whether that’s for people being stressed out, I’m not sure I have the answer for that,” he said.

Murphy said he thinks it's "a combination of lighter traffic, folks being pent up, human nature, stress, whatever it might be, all coming together in sort of a cocktail.”

Callahan noted the State Police are responsible for patrolling 89 smaller towns across Jersey as well as the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and all interstate highways.

To deal with the situation, he said, “our troopers are out there trying to keep those in our motoring public safe, so just keep an eye out for that and certainly we ask you to please obey all the traffic laws.”

"Getting out of a traffic summons, there’s no need to put everybody’s life at risk including the driver, other motorists, and certainly law enforcement," he said. "It’s just not a good idea (to drive off), simply put."

Callahan said to address the issue, State Police will be adjusting messages on highway traffic signs.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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