Good News About $4 Gas? Fewer Traffic Deaths

July 10, 2008

As unwelcome as they are, higher gasoline prices do come with a plus side – fewer deaths from car accidents, says a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

An analysis of yearly vehicle deaths compared to gas prices found death rates drop significantly as people slow down and drive less. If gas remains at $4 a gallon or higher for a year or more, traffic deaths could drop by more than 1,000 per month nationwide, said Michael Morrisey, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Lister Hill Center for Health Policy and a co-author on the new findings.

“It is remarkable to think that a percent change in gas prices can equal lives saved, which is what our data show,” Morrisey said. “For every 10 percent rise in gas prices, fatalities are reduced by 2.3 percent. The effects are even more dramatic for teen drivers.”

The early results were presented in June at a health economist meeting in North Carolina. A coauthor on report is David Grabowski, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School.

The research included death rates and gas-price changes from 1985 through 2006, and the calculated percent reduction in fatalities can be extrapolated to 2008 and beyond, Morrisey said.

The results come after earlier research by the coauthors found lower gas prices have the opposite effect by wiping away many of lifesaving outcomes from the enactment of mandatory seatbelt laws, lower blood alcohol limits and graduated drivers licenses for youth.

The UAB-Harvard findings did show the more restrictive graduated license programs helped reduce traffic deaths by 24 percent among drivers aged 15 to 17.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Explore further: Cars: A brand-by-brand look at new 2017 models

Related Stories

Cars: A brand-by-brand look at new 2017 models

September 6, 2016

With the new models that automakers are rolling out for 2017, you can wrap yourself in luxury, get thrown back in your seat with the thrill of high horsepower, sit high in an SUV or load your stuff into a functional new hatchback.

Major drop in traffic deaths: It's more than high gas prices

July 28, 2008

( -- Rising fuel prices, resulting in less driving, may very well be a reason for the decline in traffic deaths, as recent reports have suggested. But a new report by the University of Michigan shows that something ...

Sociologist links cheaper gas prices to more vehicle crashes

January 28, 2015

As the price of gasoline drops, the number of automobile crashes increases, according to Guangqing Chi, an associate professor of sociology at South Dakota State University. However, the time frame within which this occurs ...

Recommended for you

Meet Savannasaurus, Australia's newest titanosaur

October 21, 2016

The outback region around Winton in central Queensland is arguably Australia's ground zero for giant dinosaur fossils. Here, graziers occasionally stumble across petrified bones on their paddocks, amid the stubbly grass and ...

Early fossil fish from China shows where our jaws came from

October 20, 2016

Where did our jaws come from? The question is more complicated than it seems, because not all jaws are the same. In a new article, published in Science, palaeontologists from China and Sweden trace our jaws back to the extinct ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.