Traffic deaths on Bay Area roads and highways fell modestly in 2020 from the previous year, reflecting the decline in traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traffic deaths in the nine-county Bay Area dropped 9 percent from 2019, according to data provided by the California Highway Patrol.

Deaths were down about 5 percent year-to-year in the greater region, which includes Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Joaquin counties.

“You would expect that, because there were a whole lot fewer folks on the road,” said Hilary Nixon, deputy executive director for the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose.

About 450 people died on all roads and highways in the nine-county Bay Area in 2020, versus 492 the previous year. In the 12-county region, traffic deaths totaled 634, compared to 666 a year earlier.

The decline in fatalities might have been greater were it not for the high incidence of speeding.

Ten days after the shelter-in-place order went into effect in much of the region in March 2020, the CHP tweeted, “We are seeing a rise in motorists traveling at excessive speeds in the #bayarea.”

During just the first two days of May last year, CHP officers in the Bay Area issued 1,572 speeding citations, the agency said on Twitter. Of those citations, 85 were for speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.