Gasoline Prices and their Relationship to Drunk-Driving Crashes
Drunk driving is the leading cause of motor vehicle deaths in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of alcohol-related automobile accidents continue to take place each year. Many studies have explored the impacts of alcohol taxes and traffic laws on the incidence of these crashes.
A 2011 study by researchers for the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, “Gasoline Prices and Their Relationship to Drunk-Driving Crashes,” investigated the relationship between gasoline prices and drunk-driving crashes. The study used accident data from Mississippi for the 2004-2008 period, when there was significant variation in fuel prices.
The study’s findings include:
- Spikes in the price of gas saw concurrent dips in drunk-driving crashes. Similarly, dips in gasoline prices were associated with concurrent rises in drunk-driving crashes.
- Gasoline prices had significant effects only on non-fatal or minor crashes, not on fatal and personal-injury crashes. The authors hypothesized that higher gasoline prices would likely deter only lighter drinkers from drunk driving.
- Fatal drunk-driving accidents were more accurately explained through other variables like alcohol consumption rates and unemployment status.
The study’s authors conclude that variations in gas prices alone are not sufficiently explanatory of drunk-driving incidents, especially with regard to fatal and injurious accidents.
Tags: crime, cars
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies study "Gasoline Prices and their Relationship to Drunk-Driving Crashes."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "A New Strategy to Discourage Drunk Driving."
- If the article were expanded into a series, how might the study be incorporated? Do the limits of the study’s findings make it relevant or irrelevant to deeper exploration of the causes of drunk driving?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.