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Gas prices up = accidents down

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, May 13, 2011
Posted: 9 am ET

When gas prices go up as they have lately, auto accidents go down, according to a new study by Mississippi State's Social Science Research Center published in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis and Prevention. But chances are any money you might save on your auto insurance will just flow back into your gas tank.

Researcher Guangqing Chi analyzed total traffic crashes between April 2004 and December 2008, comparing gas prices to traffic safety statistics. The study also considered other factors related to driving-related accidents in the state, including age, gender and race.

"The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes," the researcher concludes.

Chi described short-term effects as the immediate decline in accidents corresponding to the rise in average gas prices over the same monthly period. Intermediate effects tracked the decline in accidents over the one-year period following a gasoline price spike.

Younger drivers tended to account for the short-term decline in crashes while men and older drivers showed more of an intermediate decline in traffic accidents.

The study also was the first to document a link between higher gas prices and reduced alcohol-related traffic accidents.

What do these findings tell us? It seems logical that we probably drive less, and slower, when the price goes up at the pump, which would tend to lessen our chances of becoming involved in an accident. It seems equally logical that younger people may be more price-sensitive than older drivers, and thus may limit their driving sooner when higher gas prices whack their wallet.

As for intoxicated drivers? I suppose theirs is a choice to either tank or be tanked.

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