Do higher fuel prices help reduce road traffic accidents?

Road traffic accidents have decreased in most developed nations over the last decade. This has been attributed to improvements in vehicle and road design, medical technology and care, and driver education and training. Recent evidence however indicates that fuel price changes also have a significant impact on road traffic accidents through other mediating factors such as reductions in driver exposure through less car travel and more fuel-efficient driving e.g. speed reduction on high-speed roads. So far though, no study has examined the effects of changing fuel prices on road traffic accidents in a country such as Great Britain where fuel prices are kept artificially high for public policy reasons. Consequently, this study was designed to quantify the effects of fuel price on road traffic accident frequency through changes and adjustments in travel behaviour. For this purpose, weekly fuel prices (between 2005–2015) have been used to study the effects on road traffic accidents using the Prais-Winsten model of first order autoregressive (AR1) and the Box and Jenkins seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models (SARIMA). The study found that with every 1% increase in fuel price there is a 0.4% reduction in the number of fatal road traffic accidents. In light of this, one concern raised was that recent UK government plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 may also risk a rise in fatal road traffic accidents, and hence this will need to be addressed.