Rising prices at the gas pump appear to be having at least one positive effect: Traffic deaths around the country are plummeting, just as they did during the Arab oil embargo three decades ago, reports the Associated Press. Researchers with the National Safety Council report a 9 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths overall through May compared with the first five months of 2007, including a drop of 18 percent in March and 14 percent in April.
Preliminary figures show that some states have reported declines of 20 percent or more. Thirty-one states have seen declines of at least 10 percent, and eight states have reported an increase, according to the council. No one can say definitively why road fatalities are falling, but it is happening as Americans cut back sharply on driving because of record-high gas prices. Experts say a slumping economy and fuel prices have brought down the number of road fatalities in a hurry. The last time road deaths fell this fast and this sharply was during the Arab oil embargo in 1973-1974, when fatalities tumbled 17 percent, and as states raised the drinking age to 21 in 1982-83, when fatalities fell 11 percent.