Motor vehicle safety advocates say that 2015 saw the largest increase in highway traffic fatalities in 50 years. The reason, they say, is the availability of cheap gas throughout the year.
Authorities at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long known that there’s a direct correlation between the price of gas and the number of deaths on the nation’s roadways. Officials say it’s most simple mathematics. When gas prices go down, people have an increased incentive to drive, and will change their driving habits. Many families will choose to drive on vacation, rather than fly, and people will be more inclined to go out for entertainment—to a movie, show, game or just to dinner.
If the accident rate remains the same—it’s been essentially the same for the past few decades—then more people spending more time on the road will necessarily lead to more accidents, injuries and fatalities. In a study conducted at South Dakota State University, researchers found that statistics corroborated the relationship between the price of gas and the volume of traffic accidents.
Professor Guangqing Chi, looking at data from the NHTSA from the past 20 years, estimated that, if gas prices stayed at or below $2 for the whole year, the death toll would increase by as many as 9,000 people. Though the numbers were not that high, they were significant. NHTSA reports show that more than 35,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2015, up more than 5,000 from the prior year, a climb of approximately 8 percent.
Oh, and there’s even worse news for younger drivers. Authorities say that teenagers are likely to make up the largest percentage of increase in injuries and fatalities, as the reduced cost of gas more directly affects them. Adults with jobs and other responsibilities are less likely to change their driving habits simply because gas prices go down.
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