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Bright Side of Paying More at the Pump? Fewer Car Crashes

TUESDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are feeling the pain of spending more at the filling station, but research from Mississippi has found a potential silver lining: Traffic accidents seem to go down -- even ones because of drunken driving -- as gas prices go up.

"The results suggest that prices have both short-term and intermediate-term effects on reducing traffic crashes," Guangqing Chi, assistant professor of sociology at Mississippi State University and demographer at Mississippi State's Social Science Research Center, and colleagues wrote.

In their research, published in two recent studies in the Journal of Safety Research and Accident Analysis & Prevention, the researchers looked at car accidents in Mississippi between 2004 and 2008, and tracked gas prices during that period. The prices seemed to affect younger drivers the most in the short-term (over one month) and older drivers and men over a one-year period.

In addition, the investigators found a strong link between higher costs at the pump and a drop in frequency of drunken-driving crashes, they noted in a university news release.

The findings add to previous research that mainly focused on how traffic-related deaths were influenced by gas prices, with only limited studies looking at the effects on car accidents overall. And, Chi added in the news release, his is the first study to examine the association between gas prices and alcohol-related crashes.

More information

For more on impaired driving, visit the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Mississippi State University, news release, April 27, 2011

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