• April 12th, 2012

Guangqing Chi, Timothy E. McClure, & David B. Brown

Objective: The price of gasoline has been found to be negatively associated with traffic crashes in a limited number of studies. However, most of the studies have focused either on fatal crashes only or on all crashes but measured over a very short time period. In this study, we examine gasoline price effects on all traffic crashes by demographic groups in the state of Alabama from 1999 to 2009.

Methods: Using negative binomial regression techniques to examine monthly data from 1999 to 2009 in the state of Alabama, we estimate the effects of changes in gasoline price on changes in automobile crashes. We also examine how these effects differ by age group (16–20, 21–25, 26–30, 31–64, and 65+), gender (male and female), and race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic).

Results: The results show that gasoline prices have both short-term and long-term effects on reducing total traffic crashes and crashes of each age, gender, and race/ethnicity group (except Hispanic due to data limitations). The short-term and long-term effects are not statistically different for each individual demographic group. Gasoline prices have a stronger effect in reducing crashes involving drivers aged 16 to 20 than crashes involving drivers aged 31 to 64 and 65+ in the short term; the effects, however, are not statistically different across other demographic groups.

Conclusions: Although gasoline price increases are not favored, our findings show that gasoline price increases (or decreases) are associated with reductions (or increases) in the incidence of traffic crashes. If gasoline prices had remained at the 1999 level of $1.41 from 1999 to 2009, applying the estimated elasticities would result in a predicted increase in total crashes of 169,492 (or 11.3%) from the actual number of crashes. If decision makers wish to reduce traffic crashes, increasing gasoline taxes is a possible option—however, doing so would increase travel costs and lead to equity concerns. These findings may help to shape transportation safety planning and policy making.