People slowing down, and fewer cars on the road, contribute to a lower highway death toll. The same thing happened back in the 1970s during the Arab oil embargo.
Researchers with the National Safety Council report a 9 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths overall through May compared with the first five months of 2007, including a drop of 18 percent in March and 14 percent in April.
The skidding economy has a bearing on this:
When the economy is in the tank and fuel prices are high, you typically see a decline in miles driven and traffic deaths," said John Ulczycki, the council's executive director for transportation safety.
States also cite other factors such as police stepping up their pursuit of speeders and drunken drivers, as well as better teen-licensing programs, safer vehicles and winter weather that kept many drivers at home. The Governors Highway Safety Association also says seat belt use is probably at record levels and will top 90 percent in several states when figures are released later this year.
But the last time road deaths fell this fast and this sharply was during the Arab oil embargo in 1973-1974, when fatalities tumbled 17 percent, from about 55,100 to 46,000; and as states raised the drinking age to 21 in 1982-83, when fatalities fell 11 percent, from roughly 49,300 to 44,000.
Chuck Hurley, a former official with the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said half of the decline in road deaths during the 1970s was attributed to high gas prices. The remainder was linked to the lowering of freeway speed limits to 55 mph.
The economic impact of higher gasoline prices is significant, but its' nice that some good things are coming out of this as well.
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