A semi traveling on Interstate 10 Wednesday morning near Sunland Gin Road experienced a blowout, which caused it to swerve across the median into opposing traffic lanes before rolling.
The driver was able to walk away from the wreck and because traffic was light, no collision occurred and nobody else was injured or killed.
Under normal circumstances, such an incident could have had tragic results. The out-of-control semi could have caused a multivehicle chain-reaction collision with numerous injuries and fatalities. That’s what happened in 2016 during the same time of year when a truck had a blowout on I-10 near Buckeye. The truck swerved and collided with a van containing a number of people. The van then rolled, ejecting its passengers, and hit another vehicle. The accident resulted in one fatality and 11 serious injuries.
But these are not normal times.
Because of the stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic has decreased considerably on highways and streets.
And the dramatic decrease in traffic has had some positive results. Our air is cleaner from the reduced vehicle exhaust. The Arizona Department of Transportation is able to get highway maintenance done in record time and during daylight hours. And the number of traffic accidents has been cut down considerably.
However, for every silver lining during this pandemic there seems to be some unforeseen domino effect with a negative result.
It’s like gasoline being under $2 a gallon for the first time in years, but people have nowhere to go. With no place to go and orders to stay home, we are getting in less traffic accidents. Because we are getting in less traffic accidents, we are making fewer visits to the emergency room at hospitals.
That means less business for the hospitals.
In other words, because we are bleeding less, hospitals are bleeding more.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday he’s looking to restore the ability of financially struggling Arizona hospitals to once again do elective surgeries.
The governor issued the directive last month to ensure that there is an adequate supply of personal protective equipment — masks, gowns and gloves — to handle what was expected to be a surge in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.
So far there has been no surge here in patients caused by the virus like there has been seen in New York.
Holly Ward, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, told our Capitol reporter Howard Fischer that hospitals are reporting losses of 30 to 40% a month.
“That’s a lot of financial bleeding that’s happening,’ she said.
She said loosening the restrictions on elective procedures like knee surgeries and hip replacements will help. But in a poor choice of statistical references, Ward also said hospitals are seeing fewer patients overall, especially in emergency rooms.
“They’re not having car accidents like they used to to go into the hospital,’’ she explained. “It’s not that day-in, day-out traffic that we would normally see.’’
Understandably, that complaint was not well received by the governor.
“You want me to apologize for people not getting into car accidents?’’ Ducey responded.
Every year, more than 140,000 accidents occur in Arizona, leading to more than 1,000 fatalities and more than 65,000 injuries. These numbers have remained nearly constant in recent years.
These are numbers we have been trying to make a dent in for years with highway improvements, public relations campaigns and policy changes. The advent of autonomous vehicles also may help reduce fatal accidents over the next decade.
Hospitals would be wise to start planning for that now.
There are things we can learn from this pandemic that could make for a better world in the future. I think we will see better personal behavior AC (After Coronavirus) as well as technology and cultural changes that could make us healthier.
The economy will need to adjust, also.
As for politics, we can still hold out hope that a new bipartisan climate results. And who knows what the side effects from that will be.
You can contact Andy Howell at email@example.com.