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18 May 2011 | PR 11/57

Rising fuel costs create reduction in traffic accidents

Whilst Britons bemoan rising fuel costs, one Loughborough academic has found that rising prices at the pump create an accompanying decline in traffic accidents.

In a study led by Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Centre (SSRC) and involving Dr Mohammed Quddus of Loughborough University’s Department of Civil and Building Engineering, researchers analysed traffic accidents in Mississippi State (USA) from April 2004 to December 2008.

Their latest paper, published in the Journal of Safety Research, found that rising petrol prices has both instantaneous and lag effects on accident rate, differing amongst age, gender and race.

The team employed a series of statistical techniques in developing the relationship between petrol prices and traffic crashes, whilst controlling other factors such as miles travelled, unemployment rate, alcohol consumption and seat-belt usage rate.

Increased petrol prices had an immediate impact on crash rates amongst younger drivers, whilst data showed a delayed effect of price hikes for older drivers and men.

Researchers have identified three possible factors to explain the influence of petrol prices on traffic safety: trip frequency and distance, transport modes, and driving behaviour. 

“We believe rises in cost of fuel makes people re-evaluate their car use,” explained Dr Quddus. “They travel less, use alternative modes of transport and drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. These factors all have a positive impact on traffic accidents.

“Whether this association between petrol prices and traffic safety would be replicated in other US regions or other countries now needs to be looked at by analysing data from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Other researchers contributing to the study include Dr Guangqing Chi and Professor Arthur Cosby of the SSRC at Mississippi State University and Dr David Levinson of the University of Minnesota.

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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