By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — Drivers might notice a return to normal rush hour on the roads in the Chicago area. While fewer drivers are on the road than before the pandemic, more people are getting increasingly comfortable with getting behind the wheel.

Is Chicago’s bumper to bumper traffic a sign of normal life? Ask some people, and they seem to think so.

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“As far as I’m concern traffic-wise, this pandemic is over,” said Cedric Wouldfolk.

There are no more roads that he considered “ghost towns” shortly after the Illinois stay-at-home order went into effect a year ago.

“You could get on to the Expressway ramp and pass no one if you had a steady flow,” he said.

And data from the Illinois Department of Transportation shows how last year around this time, traffic on major expressways during work weeks decreased at least 24% from 2019.

But the things are turning. 

“We’re starting to see a shift and return back closer to normal,” said Nicholas Jarmusz with AAA.

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AAA recently did a survey in Illinois asking people if they are driving more or less since the pandemic started. In January 54% said less and 12% said more. Just last month 42% percent said less and 21% said more — a 9% increase in drivers taking to the roads. 

Part of the reason is hesitancy over public transportation.

“Too much exposure to viruses. I’d rather just stay in my car. My car is my shelter,” said Chicago driver Gregory Marshall.

“As more people resume in-person working if they are still shying away from public transportation and driving instead, that’s going to create huge congestion issues,” said Jarmusz. “So we do hope people will be more comfortable as vaccination rollouts continue.”

But while congestion is a frustration for some gas station owner Biuemon says bring the business on. 

“More customers are coming now. Three months ago, it was too slow. Right now it’s better,” he said.

It is a slow roll to a return to normalcy that has its ups and downs for some people. 

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But there is an up side: Experts hope a return to normal means fewer fatal accidents after 2020 saw an increase due to speed and distracted driving.