Lower gas prices put a smile on drivers’ faces as they pull away from the pump with the saving in their pockets. A drop in fuel costs can also mean lower costs on everything from food to airline tickets as companies pass along their fuel savings to their customers. But there is a downside to all of these benefits. Cheaper gas puts more drivers on the roads, changes driving habits and causes an increase in traffic accidents. This puts Chicago drivers in danger as they are more likely to be hurt or fatally injured in a car crash, and more likely to need the help of a Chicago car accident attorney.
According to a study conducted in Minnesota, even a drop of $.20 in gas prices resulted in fifteen more traffic deaths per year statewide. On a national scale, the study’s author concluded that a $2.00 drop in gas prices could result in 9,000 extra fatalities in car crashes every year. The price drop that he cites is similar to the one experienced in the Chicago area over the past few years. In fact, the drop in prices for Chicago is even more dramatic, from around $4.50 per gallon in 2013 to well under $2.00 at the start of 2016. Current crash data seems to confirm the connection between lower gas prices and higher fatality rates. At this point in 2015, there were 18 fewer fatalities in Illinois. If this trend continues through 2016, it could be a very bad year for safe driving around Chicago and the state.
Low Gas Prices Cause Unsafe Driving
There are many reasons why a drop in gas prices is connected to an increase in traffic accidents and deaths. For one, low prices bring more drivers onto the roads. At the same time, it makes driving more accessible to the most dangerous drivers on the roads. These are young drivers, whose lack of experience makes them especially deadly drivers. With lower incomes, young people’s driving is especially limited by high gas prices. It could also bring out more gas guzzling SUVs, increasing the chances of rollover accidents. But there are other factors at work.
When gas prices are high, drivers may automatically change the way they drive to help save money. This could include:
- Accelerating more slowly
- Increasing following distance to allow for more gentle braking, and
- Reducing overall travel speeds.
Following these three driving practices alone could greatly reduce car accidents for Chicago drivers. These gas saving techniques also happen to be very useful safe driving techniques. To look at only the speed factor, more than a third of all traffic fatalities involve speeding drivers. Slowing down to save on gas could also save lives. Now that gas prices are higher, drivers may not care about saving gas, and could drive more aggressively. Many more people will also need to speak with a Chicago car crash attorney to help them deal with the accidents caused by this type of driving.
The Facts on Traffic Stats
The Illinois Department of Transportation releases annual statistics for traffic accidents around the state of Illinois. Between 2010 and 2012, they saw a steady decrease in the number of traffic accidents. But 2013 and 2014 brought a change in this trend. These years saw an increase in licensed drivers on the roads, along with more accidents. One notable bright spot from the data showed that fatality rates dropped in 2014, despite an overall increase in traffic accidents. This could be the result of better technology for avoiding crashes, or even a decrease in distracted driving.
Around half of all crashes in Illinois occur in Cook County, according to numbers published by the Chicago Tribune in 2014. This puts Chicago drivers at especially high risk and more likely to need a Chicago car accident attorney to help deal with the effects of being involved in an auto accident.
Gas Prices and Long-Term Driving Safety
The same University of Minnesota study cited earlier also found that bad driving habits stick with drivers even after gas prices increase. The same is true for safe driving practices. The effects of lower gas prices on unsafe driving and car crashes peaks about a year after the price drop. It also takes time to start using safe diving and fuel saving techniques again.
With gas prices now hitting lows that drivers have not seen in years, the effect on accident rates and fatalities could be dramatic. It could also last long after gas prices begin to climb again, if and when they do. A Chicago car accident attorney may be a driver’s best ally as accident rates continue to climb and stay at higher levels.