Economists Say Climate Change May Lead to More Traffic Fatalities

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When gas prices dive, more people take to the roads. While it is unsurprising that there is a correlation between the number of people on the roads and the number of accidents and fatalities, economists are also predicting that nice weather may be linked to rates of traffic fatalities.

At the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in San Francisco, a pair of economists presented the results of an investigation into how climate change may affect U.S. traffic accident rates over the next 100 years. The researchers analyzed data from approximately 46 million police-reported accidents from 20 states between 1990 and 2010, along with weather from 2,607 stations. Unsurprisingly, they found that below-freezing temperatures, or days with rain or snow, increased the risk of accidents involving injuries. More unexpectedly, they also found that fatalities rose as the weather improved. In fact, there was a nine percent increase on days with temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit compared to milder temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees.

The reason for this seems to be that people take advantage of the weather to bike, walk, or ride motorcycles – all modes of transportation that provide little to no protection in a crash. As average temperatures are expected to climb over the next century as a result of greenhouse gases, the researchers predicted that there will be a net increase of approximately 650 traffic-related deaths each year in the U.S. by the year 2100 – most of which are expected to be pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

Read more about this research online via Inside Science.

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