Statistics gathered by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) confirm what experts have known for years—there’s a direct correlation between the price of gas and the number of motor vehicle accidents across the country. Simply put, as gas prices go up, injuries and fatalities go down, and vice versa. Authorities point to a nearly 8% increase in the number of auto accident fatalities from 2014 to 2015, with approximately 5,000 more deaths nationwide. The trend continued in 2016, with a 6% increase from 2015.
Researchers say it’s a simple matter of mathematics. As prices go down, more people have incentive to drive, and they have incentive to drive more often. Many will opt to drive somewhere on business or vacation, instead of flying, as costs will be less. Assuming that the accident and fatality rate remain basically the same, the increased miles on the road necessarily lead to a rise in accidents.
A study conducted by Professor Guangqing Chi, at South Dakota State University, confirmed traffic safety officials’ fears. Chi looked at the correlation between gas prices and traffic accident over a 15 year period and found that accidents always increased when gas prices declined and slowed down as gas prices went up. Professor Chi also discovered that the change in gas prices more directly affected drivers under the age of 20. Chi suggested that drivers in that demographic had less disposable income, so felt the impact of price changes more acutely. He also noted that younger drivers engaged in driving more as a leisure activity and not as a requirement—fewer had jobs or other places that demanded that they drive.
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