Finally, a silver lining is appearing in the dark cloud of high gasoline prices. The number of traffic deaths statewide is down significantly from a year ago, which Triple-A-Nebraska’s Rose White attributes, in part, to the rising costs of filling our gas tanks. “With many motorists curtailing their driving to conserve gasoline and vehicles traveling at reduced speeds on the interstate to maximize fuel efficiency, high fuel costs may be a factor in helping to drive fewer deaths on the roadways,” White says. “We also believe teens may be driving fewer miles since they have fewer dollars to spend on their gas.”
Nebraska has seen 87 traffic deaths this year, compared to 119 on this date a year ago. White says it’s becoming clear, more people are trying to save fuel by driving less — and by driving smarter. “Some people may be avoiding those aggressive driving behaviors, such as hard braking and fast acceleration that waste fuel and that frequently contribute to car accidents.” White says. “It certainly is interesting that we have this double-digit drop (in highway deaths) and that may actually be a result of high fuel prices.”
Unfortunately, she says higher fuel costs may be a contributing factor to more motorcycle fatalities — which have risen to seven deaths in Nebraska this year, up from four reported for the same period in 2007. She says fuel consumption rates are dropping as gas prices rise — and more people are riding mass transit as well.
Driving slower on the interstate can help save gas, White says, but how do you know the ideal speed for your car? Most car’s owner’s manuals will list the optimum speed for maximum fuel efficiency, and White says for most vehicles, it’s between 55 and 65 miles an hour.
Triple-A says the statewide average for a gallon of unleaded gas is three-96, which is 11-cents below the national average.