This may not come as much of a surprise once you think it through, but a new study from Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center has found that higher gas prices lead to fewer traffic accidents, including those which are related to drunk driving.
As gas prices in much of America hover just below $4.00/gallon, and are significantly above that threshold in places like California, some would say that this is the brighter side of the dependency on fossil fuels for, well, motor fuel, at least for auto insurance companies, who assess premiums based on perceived risk.
Guangging Chi, an assistant professor of sociology at the university examined several factors related to traffic accidents in Mississippi, including age, ethnicity, and gender, before publishing his findings, which focused on the period of time between April, 2004, and December, 2008 and compared gas prices to traffic safety statistics. The full study can be read in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis Prevention.
According to Guangging’s article, “The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes.” More specifically, his research shows that the price at the pump has a mid-term impact on older drivers and men, while the impact on accidents in the younger segment of the population is short-term. This latter, he says, looks at how the average price over a month affect the same month’s accident statistics.
While other studies have linked the price of gas and the number of vehicle crash-related fatalities, there hasn’t been much research on ALL traffic accidents, and no previous study took drunk driving into account. This study, on the other hand, noted “significant connections” with a reduced number of “alcohol-related crashes.”
Also contributing to this study were Mississippi State’s SSRC director Arthur Cosby; Mohammed Quddus, a senior lecturer in transportation studies at the University of Loughborough, United Kingdom, andDavid Levinson, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota.
As to a reason for a connection between more expensive gas and fewer accidents, the study doesn’t state one absolutely, but we can hazard a guess: higher prices at the pump mean less driving, which means a lower likelihood of getting into any kind of accident.