Two recent reports – one from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and another from analysis company GasBudy – predicted the lowest gas prices in a decade this summer for Maine and the rest of the country.
Both indicated average gas prices would be less than $2.50 per gallon for regular unleaded gas during the summer driving season, which stretches from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The cost for a gallon of gas hasn’t been that low since 2005, prior to the economic downturn.
Last year, the average cost for a gallon of gas at this time was nearly $3.65 for regular unleaded. Now, it’s about $2.40 a gallon. It’s slated to dip even lower this summer.
While this is great news for the tourism industry, it’s being met with some caution by traffic safety advocates, who fear an increased risk of Maine auto collisions.
Studies have shown repeatedly that low gas prices increase the number of traffic fatalities.
For example, sociological researchers at South Dakota State University have been conducting ongoing analysis on the relationship between U.S. roadway fatalities and gas prices. In one case, they found a 20-cent dip in gas prices in Minnesota was associated with a 15-person increase in traffic deaths.
Researchers were then asked what it might mean nationally if gas prices were to fall by $2 across the board. The answer? Nine thousand additional traffic fatalities. That is an increase of about 30 percent.
A number of reasons, but mostly, it has to do with the fact that when gas prices are low, people drive more. When they are high, people drive less.
In the latter instance, people may combine everyday trips – going to the grocery store, picking up children, commuting to work, stopping at the bank – rather than making separate trips for each chore, in an effort to save gas money. But when prices are lower, it’s not as much of a concern.
Additionally, when gas prices are higher, people end up doing things to conserve gas money that actually make them safer behind the wheel. For example, people tend to accelerate more slowly and maintain a more steady, constant speed. That’s because doing so will conserve gasoline, as opposed to fast acceleration and hard braking. These behaviors behind the wheel also help to reduce the number of accidents.
One group researchers found in which price fluctuations appeared to drastically impact safety was teenagers. People in their late teens and early 20s drove significantly fewer miles when gas prices shot up. Because this is considered to be the highest-risk group of motor vehicle operators, that tends to mean significantly fewer crashes.
Of course, those with deeper pockets are likely to drive regardless, but with lower gas prices this summer, there is ample reason to believe people will be driving with greater frequency over the next several months.
With the downward trajectory expected to continue in Maine through the upcoming summer travel season, we expect to see a rise in traffic accidents.
The best way motorists can protect themselves and their passengers is to ensure all occupants are buckled up and drivers remain sober, alert and focused on the road.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine summer gasoline prices expected to be the lowest in a decade, April 9, 2015, By J. Craig Anderson, Portland Press Herald
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