Study shows low gas prices lead to more vehicle crashes

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After weeks of historic lows, gas prices are on the upswing. While that means more pain at the pump, the rise in gas prices may actually have a silver lining.

Gas prices have crept back to two dollars and drivers are starting to cringe, but those numbers don't just have an affect on your wallet. An SDSU professor concludes what you pay at the pump directly impacts the number of fender benders on the road.

"When there is the change in gas price we will either drive more or drive less." said Guangqing Chi, an associate professor of sociology at SDSU.

More drivers mean more opportunities for accidents and with weeks of historic low prices that's Chi's expectation for South Dakota roads. Sioux Falls commuters have already taken notice.

"I live on the west side and you see them scattered throughout town and I believe it's probably a cause of it or it contributes to it anyway." said Samuel Nelson.

But is it just low prices or does bad weather also play a role?

"Inevitably if people are going to be driving more and more especially with the conditions the way they are when they are icy you could have more accidents on the road." said John Pekas.

According to the study, teen drivers were the key demographic as their wallets are more susceptible to fuel fluctuations. Even drivers education is looking hard at new drivers and their habits.

"In the survey at school it was actually now that gas prices are lower does it benefit you? I guess it does mean that we would be out on the road more." said Nathaniel Pekas.

So what does this mean going forward? Well, the study gives support to those in favor of a gas tax, something South Dakota has avoided for three decades.

"As a consumer nobody likes it, we don't like a higher gas tax. However there is this bright side of higher gas prices or gas tax is that we will make the roads safer." said Chi.

But a gas tax is ultimately up for lawmakers to decide. So for now, with gas prices on the upswing hopefully your pain will only be felt at the pump, not on the road.

"I mean it's only natural that it goes back up!" said Nathaniel Pekas.

The study was lead by professor Chi who is also South Dakota's state demographer. The multi-institutional team of researchers analyzed more than 8 years of crash data from Minnesota, Mississippi, and Alabama to come up with their findings.