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-Iowa’s Rose White attributes, in part, to the rising cost 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."
Iowa has seen 145 traffic deaths this year, compared to 166 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."
The number of motorcycling fatalities has also fallen this year, with 17 recorded statewide so far in 2008, compared to 21 on this date a year ago. 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 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 $3.93, which is 14-cents below the national average.