Frustrated by Gas Prices? At Least the Roads Might Be Safer

No one likes paying $4 for a gallon of gas, but look on the bright side – paying more at the pump might result in safer roadways.

According to research conducted by Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center and published in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis and Prevention, rising gas prices create an accompanying decline in all traffic accidents, including drunk-driving crashes.

Guangqing Chi, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at the university, examined a range of factors related to driving-related accidents in the state. The study analyzed total traffic crashes between April 2004 and December 2008 and compared gas prices to traffic safety statistics.

“The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes,” Chi explained. “Short-term impact” refers to immediate effects, such as how a current month's average gasoline prices affect the same month’s traffic crashes. “Intermediate-term impact” refers to effects over a 1-year subsequent time period.

In particular, the research suggests that gas prices have a short-term impact on crashes involving younger drivers and intermediate-term impact related to older drivers and men.

While previous research linked traffic-related fatalities to gas price fluctuations, limited research has shown the effects of prices on all traffic accidents. No research previously examined the link between drunk-driving crashes and gas prices, Chi observed. His research also found significant connections between gas prices and a reduced frequency of alcohol-related crashes.

So the next time you grumble about gas prices, keep in mind that at least the rising costs might keep some drunk drivers off the road and, as a result, help the roadways stay a little safer.

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