The Case for High Gas Prices: Safety

City Lab: “In a sharp post on the topic, Joe Cortright at City Observatory points us to a very instructive study that sheds new light on how safety suffers when pump prices plunge. Or, if you prefer rosier goggles, how higher gas prices lead to fewer crashes.”

“During hard times, or when gas prices surge, people drive less: some shift to cheaper travel modes, some just stay home.”

“For the recent study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers gathered Mississippi crash data from April 2004 to December 2012 on a month-by-month basis. Then they collected gas prices over this period as well to see when safety connections emerged … For every 10 percent increase in gas prices, the lagged effect produced a 1.5 percent decrease in traffic crashes per capita.”

“The researchers extrapolate the findings to estimate what the broader safety impacts would be at either end of the gas price spectrum. If fuel costs had been at their lowest point ($1.81) over the entire study period, the researchers would expect 57,461 more crashes to have occurred—a 5.7 percent rise. But if fuel costs had been at their highest ($4.17) during this time, the expectation would be for 70,655 fewer crashes, or a 7 percent decline.”

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