Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nice graphs of traffic fatalities, miles driven and recessions since the early 70's.

Saw this graphic in an article on why Southern cities have more pedestrian fatalities than other regions of the country.  It includes pedestrian and regular ol' traffic accidents that result in the death of someone.

Go HERE for the full analysis, but I was intrigued by the year 1974. Why the big drop-off from 1973? (I marked 1973 with the RED arrow as the high watermark for traffic fatalities).
Source: Washington Post

Here is a graph from Calculated Risk that shows miles driven over time (1971-Present). In addition it shows all the recessions, mild and severe, during that time span.

If you look at the periods of recession in this graph and line them up with the graph of fatalities above you will notice there is is dip in miles driven and traffic fatalities. The only exception is the recession in 2001-02.  Miles driven did not skip a beat.

The one I marked with arrow is the result of the Arab oil embargo that increased gas prices significantly and price controls made scarcity a problem (I remember those days as a teenager).  People were very careful in their consumption of fuel and (1) made fewer trips and (2) voluntarily slowed down on the highways to conserve even more.

I don't think this explains all of  the long term trend in decreased traffic fatalities.  There has to be more, right?

What do you think could be a contributing factor?

In terms of recent times, what correlation can you make with the leveling off of miles driven during and post-Great recession and the rapid decrease in traffic fatalities?  The recession is over so it should be trending up, right?

So many questions!  Do you have answers?


  1. What is interesting about today's cars is that many of them actually get better mpg when driving in the 65 to 75 mph.

    1. That is very true. I would say, in general, people don't think too much about driving slower to save gasoline. Speed limits have increased since they were initially lowered in the 1970's. Safety features and the fact that young people are choosing to either drive much less or not at all is a big reason for the long term decline in traffic deaths.

      Thank you for the comment.


View My Stats