My colleague Guangqing Chi, now at Penn State, was interviewed this morning on NPR talking about gasoline price and fatalities. The paper he referred to is here:
- Chi, Guangchi, Mohammed Quddus, Arthur Huang and David Levinson (2013) Gasoline Price Effects on Traffic Safety in Urban and Rural Areas: Evidence from Minnesota, 1998–2007. Safety Science 59: pp. 154-162
I suspect (and hope) Chi’s estimate of 9000 additional fatalities per year in the US due to a $2/gallon drop in the price of fuel is too high, but lowering the price of gas will increase VMT (all else equal), and especially will increase VMT of marginal (less skilled, younger) travelers (those who were priced out of traveling when gas prices were high, and now come back must have less experience than those who have been driving all along).
This is fighting against the general trend of peak travel and increased safety. It will take a bit of time for people to adapt to lower prices again, and it depends very much on how long the lower prices last (a month, a year, a decade). But low prices when the economy is expanding is something we have not seen since the 1990s, when annual fatalities were notably lower.