Study suggests thousands more road deaths when gas prices drop $2 a gallon

American drivers certainly like cheaper gas prices but it may come at the price of more deaths:

South Dakota State University sociology professor Guangqing Chi, who analyzes the relationship between gas prices and road fatalities, calculated what the current prices might mean for fatalities by analyzing traffic and crash data numbers from a Minnesota study he conducted from 1998 to 2007.

“A $2 drop in gasoline price can translate into about 9,000 road fatalities a year in the U.S,” Chi said on NPR’s Morning Edition Tuesday. NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam said his “jaw dropped” when he heard the “scary” number. A more conservative calculation based on Chi’s research translates into 3,000 more road deaths per year, Vedantam said…

Chi’s original Minnesota study — from which he extrapolated the 9,000 road deaths figure — showed that even a 20-cent drop in gas prices was linked to 15 additional road deaths in the state per year.

Chi told The Huffington Post by phone Tuesday that it typically takes almost a year for drivers to adopt new driving habits in response to changes in gas prices. Some analysts have predicted low gas prices will persist for the next six months or so.

Those driverless cars (with solar power and electric cars) can’t get here soon enough. Yet, Chi acknowledges that Americans have already been driving less so it will take some time to see if driving picks up just because gas prices dropped significantly.

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