The worst fears of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials have proven true, as the death toll on the nation’s highways saw its greatest increase in half a century in 2015. Though officials admit that there are a number of factors at play, they point to research that shows a direct correlation between the price of gas and the number of motor vehicle accidents. According to government statistics, more than 35,000 people died on America’s roads in 2015, up about 8 percent over the prior year.
NHTSA representatives cite a study conducted by Professor Guangqing Chi, at South Dakota State University. Chi looked at data from the past 20 years, comparing accident rates to the price of gasoline. His study found that every time gas prices took a noticeable dip, there was a corresponding increase in injury and death in motor vehicle accidents. His prognosis for 2015 was much gloomier than it actually turned out to be—he had predicted an increase of 9,000 deaths on the nation’s roadways.
Chi says the reasons for the relationship are not complicated. The lower the price of gas, the more people are inclined to drive. They may choose to take a vacation by car instead of flying, or they may simply drive more around town. Assuming that accident rates remain the same, more cars on the road for more amounts of time means more accidents, injuries and deaths. Chi says the impact of lower prices hits younger drivers harder, as they are more inclined to change their habits based on the price of gas.
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