For the average American, driving or riding in a car is perhaps their most risky daily activity. So if gas prices go up (with the Chicago region leading the nation) and driving goes down, then less Americans may be killed on the road. This is according to a recent study of Mississippi data:
Traffic accidents seem to go down — even ones because of drunken driving — as gas prices go up.
“The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes,” Guangqing Chi, assistant professor of sociology at Mississippi State University and demographer at Mississippi State’s Social Science Research Center, and colleagues wrote.
In their research, published in two recent studies in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis & Prevention, the researchers looked at car accidents in Mississippi between 2004 and 2008, and tracked gas prices during that period. The prices seemed to affect younger drivers the most in the short-term (over one month) and older drivers and men over a one-year period.
In addition, the investigators found a strong link between higher costs at the pump and a drop in frequency of drunken-driving crashes, they noted in a university news release.
This is data from one state so it would be interesting to see if such relationships hold in additional states.
But these arguments about safety in light of generally negative public opinion (regarding gas prices here) can provoke some contentious conversations. Some members of the public are bound to ask whether the government is most interested in safety or in revenue? The same issue has been raised with red-light cameras and I also ran into similar arguments about particular developments when doing research into the growth of nearby suburbs.
For the average American, would they rather have a higher risk while driving (which they probably don’t think about anyway) or lower gas prices? This seem easy to answer and I wonder if the safety argument will gain any traction at all.