Expert Commentary

Gasoline prices and their relationship to drunk-driving crashes

2011 study for the Transportation Research Board on link between fuel prices and alcohol-related car accidents.

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

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