Do Lower Gas Prices Mean More Car Accidents?

stockfresh_1826263_close-up-image-of-a-mens-hand-refilling-the-car-with-a-gas-pump_sizeS-300x200If you drive to work every day or regularly transport your children to school and extracurricular activities in Western North Carolina or Upstate South Carolina, you have noticed that gas prices have dropped significantly. This undoubtedly has had a positive effect on your bank account.

But are low gas prices a good thing when it comes to car accidents? According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, lower gas prices can result in more auto accident-related deaths.

Why would cheaper gas mean more car accidents? In short, the lower the cost of gas, the more miles motorists tend to log. And when there are more cars on the road, we are all at greater risk of being injured in a crash.

Correlation Shown Between Gas Prices and Traffic Collisions

North Carolina residents in Asheville, Waynesville, Franklin, and throughout the western part of the state are experiencing some economic relief as a result of dipping gas costs. For instance, if you live in Asheville or surrounding areas, you are likely to see gas prices as low as $1.47 per gallon, according to North Carolina GasBuddy.

Prices at the pump are even lower south of the state line. South Carolina has some of the cheapest gas in the region. For those of us in Spartanburg and Greenville, the declining gas prices likely have come as an enormous relief. According to the same website, Greenville motorists are likely to see prices as low as $1.33 per gallon.

But what do these gas prices mean in terms of accident rates in North Carolina and South Carolina? As a recent report from NPR explains, there is a correlation between gas prices and car accident statistics. When gas prices are higher, there are fewer fatalities on our highways. But when gas prices are lower, more traffic accident injuries and deaths occur.

This correlation has been studied by researchers in various parts of the country. For instance, Guangqing Chi, a sociologist at South Dakota State University, presented some of his findings in an interview with NPR.

He determined that a 20-cent drop in the price of gas results in 15 more car accident deaths each year. Given that figure, a $2 drop in gas prices could mean 9,000 more car accident fatalities every year.

Auto Accidents Injuries and Fatalities in North Carolina and South Carolina

The calculations made by Chi seem to be backed up by statistical records of gas prices and car accidents. As the Huffington Post article notes, gas prices were close to $4 per gallon in 2012, when there was a decline in the number of auto accidents and injuries. Yet as a recent article in Newsweek points out, 2015 likely will be identified as one of the deadliest years for car accidents in quite some time. The article cites a National Safety Council (NSC) finding over a 14 percent increase in auto accidents during the first half of 2015 (up from the first half of 2014).

Does the higher rate of car accidents link to lower gas prices? Certainly, if we accept the findings reported to NPR, then cheaper gas could indeed be playing a role in the rise in auto accident fatalities.

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