New Reports: Higher Gas Prices Mean Safer Roads

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Infrastructurist cites our work: New Reports: Higher Gas Prices Mean Safer Roads

Politicians continue to search for answers to the problem of America’s rising gas prices — low as these prices remain in global terms — but many are searching in the wrong places. Redskins quarterback bustRep. Heath Shuler has proposed a 45-day federal gas tax “holiday,” as if the 18 years since the tax was last raised were not holiday enough. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska has proposed an “expensive federal subsidy” that “makes no sense” and is “counterproductive” to economic recovery, writes Robert Puentes at The New Republic:

It would actually reward high-income households and those that buy the most gas and do nothing for the 9.2 percent of the labor force that is unemployed or those who are retired and living on Social Security.

Social scientists, meanwhile, continue to explore the potential benefits of higher gas prices. A new report from Canadian researchers connects higher fuel costs with reduced sprawl. A pair of recent studies from Mississippi State (via The Transportationist) link higher gas prices with safer roads.

The first, which appeared in the Journal of Safety Research (pdf) last December, studied the relationship between gas prices and car accidents in Mississippi between 2004 and 2008. The researchers report both both short- and intermediate-term links between high prices and reduced crashes, with intermediate effects generally stronger. From a policy standpoint, the researchers conclude:

that if decision makers wish to reduce traffic crash rates, increased gasoline taxes are a considerable option because raised gasoline prices reduce traffic crashes directly.

In the January issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention (pdf), the same research team (give or take a couple members) studied the same time period for relationships between gas prices and drunk driving. The researchers report a connection between higher gas prices and fewer crashes caused by drunk driving, particularly one-car, property-damaging accidents. Exactly why high prices reduce less severe crashes is unclear; perhaps lighter drinkers, responding to economic changes, drink even less. Meanwhile, the researchers conclude, the effect is limited with regard to more severe crashes, perhaps because heavier drinkers are less likely under any condition to alter their behavior:

[H]igher gasoline prices are less likely to deter heavier drinkers from drunk driving, as heavier drinkers are less likely to change driving behaviors due to gasoline price changes and may even drink more in response to economic stress.

1 Comment

I wonder if increased pedestrian and bicycle accidents were considered in these studies? Colliding with the sign-twirler out front of the payday loan place while biking back from the 7-11 while carrying a case of Bud Light could cause some serious injuries.

David Levinson

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on May 12, 2011 8:28 AM.

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