In early January, National Public Radio’s news program Morning Edition devoted a segment to research about the interaction between the price of gas and the number of fatal car wrecks on the road. The segment discussed research from a South Dakota State University sociologist who had been analyzing the relationship between gas prices and roadway safety. According to his research, a drop in gas prices leads to an increase in fatalities and crashes throughout the country.
Lower gas prices, of course, encourage people to drive more frequently. Unfortunately, the increased number of cars means increased risks for both pedestrians and drivers. The research has revealed something else as well: when gas prices are high, drivers will drive a certain way to maximize the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, such as accelerating slowly and maintaining a steady speed. Those behaviors are also the same behaviors associated with safe driving. In contrast, people are more careless in their driving habits when gas is cheaper.
Another study mentioned in the segment also showed that a 15-cent decline in gas prices in one state led to 15 more deaths during the year. If the price of gas were to drop by $2, the researcher said, there would be a 9,000 additional people killed in the United States because of car crashes. In the past few months, gas prices have decreased across the country—including here in South Carolina—to around $2, more than a $1 drop from the same time last year. Based on the researcher’s calculations, this $1-plus drop can mean 3,000 car accident fatalities. In this time of increased driving, it is important that drivers and pedestrians remember to remain attentive of their surroundings.
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