Over on the front page (two tabs to the left at the top of your screen), one of our new Sightline Daily editors found this nugget on the Oregonian’s website today:
Portland saw just 20 traffic deaths in 2008, the lowest number since the city began recording fatalities in 1925, transportation officials said today … Road deaths dipped to their lowest levels in decades in most states and urban areas across the country last year, according to a recent Governors Highway Safety Association report.
As the piece points out, there’s a likely correlation between last year’s high gas prices and the weakening economy: when you drive less, you crash less.
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Clark—even on vacation—couldn’t help but point me towards this report on driving and traffic accidents from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. From the report (emphasis added):
Sivak (2008) found that a 2.7% decline in U.S. vehicle travel caused by fuel price increases and a weak economy during 2007-08 resulted in a much larger 17.9% to 22.1% month-to-month declines in traffic fatalities. These results can be explained by the disproportionate reductions in vehicle travel by lower income drivers (who tend to be young and old, and therefore higher than average risk) and speed reductions to save fuel.
So there you have it—the silver lining to rising fuel costs and a weak economy: record-low traffic deaths in Portland last year.