STARKVILLE, Miss.--As gasoline prices head toward $4 a gallon, pain at the pump seems to have at least one silver lining for state drivers.
A study by Mississippi State's Social Science Research Center indicates that rising gas prices create an accompanying decline in all traffic accidents, including drunk-driving crashes.
Researcher Guangqing Chi, an assistant professor of sociology at the university, recently published his findings in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis and Prevention.
An SSRC demographer, Chi examined a range of factors related to driving-related accidents in the state, including age, gender and race. The study analyzed total traffic crashes between April 2004 and December 2008, comparing gas prices to traffic safety statistics.
"The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes," he reports in the journal article.
Among other points, the research also shows gas prices having a short-term impact on crashes involving younger drivers and intermediate-term impact related to older drivers and men.
Chi said short-term impact refers to immediate effects, for example how a current month's average gasoline prices affect the same month's traffic crashes. Intermediate-term impact refers to effects over a one-year subsequent time period.
While previous research linked traffic-related fatalities to gas price fluctuations, limited research has shown the effects of prices on all traffic accidents. No research previously examined the link between drunk-driving crashes and gas prices, Chi observed.
His research also found significant connections between gas prices and a reduced frequency of alcohol-related crashes.
Other researchers contributing to the study include SSRC director Arthur Cosby; David Levinson, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota; and Mohammed Quddus, a senior lecturer in transportation studies at the University of Loughborough, United Kingdom.
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