$4 Gas = Fewer Fatalities. Maybe.

Richard Chen
by Richard Chen

iCasualties.org reports 4118 U.S. military deaths in Iraq from March '03 to July '08. In 2005 (the last year where full data is available), 43,443 American died in road accidents. The rate of deaths per 100 million miles driven has steadily decreased. But the increasing number of miles driven means that the total number of fatalities hasn't changed much over the past few decades. Get those drivers to drive less… ScienceDaily reports that Michael Morresey put together some tables on the topic. The public health professor at the University of Alabama reckons a 10 percent rise in the cost of gas trims traffic by 2.3 percent. His calculations suggest that $4/gallon gas equals 1k fewer monthly U.S. road fatalities. It's not clear if Morresey's assumptions factor in the effect of automobilists switching to a pair of wheels ( with a much higher fatality rate per miles driven). It'll be a few years before we get the bottom line.

Richard Chen
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  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on Jul 13, 2008

    Folks will use just about anything to justify high gas prices these days.

  • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Jul 13, 2008

    I just thought of a couple points. Less driving may NOT mean lower accidents, injuries, or fatalities. Remember, we are not talking about pure statistics in a vacum here. We are talking about human beings. Practice makes perfect. Skillful drivers may be able to avoid accidents entirely. Or reduce the severity of an accident. Take for example the driver who has the presence of mind and/or fast reaction to turn the wheel, thereby running off the road or maybe just hitting a roadsign instead of a pedestrian, biker, or another vehicle. Having the presence of mind to "choose" what to crash into, given an unavoidable crash. Or hitting another vehicle obliquely, rather than having a direct head-on crash. Human beings are great at gaining fast reactions, presence-of-mind-during-emergencies, and other types of competency, but only with PRACTICE. Take away that practice (daily driving), and competency will eventually fall. Or in the case of new drivers, competency will not be acheived in the first place. With lower competency levels, the chance for accidents may rise. And when an accident occurs, the chance that it may be more serious (ie, more injurious or more deadly) may also rise.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jul 13, 2008

    ZoomZoom: I think you are describing what we engineers call second and third order effects. They may exist, but rarely dominate the outcome.

  • RedStapler RedStapler on Jul 14, 2008

    Another factor in this is that with $5/gal Deisel a lot more freight is riding going onto railroads. As freight slows some of the poor drivers are being shown the door. Many of the entry-level long haul carriers like Swift or Werner are being significantly more selective about who they hire. Two years ago they would hire someone with a couple of preventable accidents and speeding tickets. Today they likely would not.