NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 18, 2008

The steep rise in the price of gas may be translating into fewer deaths on America's roads, according to a new study co-authored by Michael Morrisey of the University of Alabama and David Grabowski of Harvard University Medical School. The researchers found that for each 10 percent rise in gas prices between 1985 and 2006, there was a 2.3 percent decline in vehicular deaths.

Other major findings:

  • Young drivers fared even better -- for every 10 percent rise in the price at the pump, the decline in traffic deaths among drivers ages 15 to 17 has been 6 percent.
  • For ages 18 to 21, the decline has been 3.2 percent.


  • The data used in the study only went to 2006, when gas was about $2.50 per gallon.
  • With gas now reaching more than $4 a gallon, Morrisey expects a much greater drop in roadway deaths -- perhaps 1,000 fewer fatalities each month.
  • The annual U.S. auto deaths now total between 38,000 and 40,000 per year, so a drop of 12,000 deaths would represent a third fewer fatalities annually.

One highway safety expert, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, says the findings make sense. Teenagers, the most risky drivers, don't have as much money, so they are driving less, says Ditlow.  Also, people know if they drive slower they're going to save gasoline.

Source: "As Gas Prices Rise, U.S. Traffic Deaths Fall," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 13, 2008.


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