Gas prices and motorcycle deaths

Rising gasoline prices are related to increased motorcycle sales. Increased motorcycle sales are related to increased motorcycle fatalities. The questions are: Why? And what to do about it?

A new study in the journal Injury Epidemiology has shown correlations not only between increases in gasoline prices and motorcycle sales, but, also, gasoline prices and motorcycle fatalities.

The article, Rising gasoline prices increase new motorcycle sales and fatalities by He Zhu, Fernando A. Wilson, Jim P. Stimpson, and Peter E. Hilsenrath, shows that each additional $1 per gallon in gasoline prices correlates with an increase in motorcycles sales of more than a quarter of a million new bikes and also that motorcycle fatalities are associated with newer (and more powerful) motorcycles. The increase in new motorcycle sales correlates with increases in motorcycle fatalities as well.

Zhu et al. used data from the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Energy Information Administration, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1984-2009. The authors write, “We estimated that a dollar increase in gasoline prices would result in 295,000 new motorcycle sales and, consequently, 233 fatalities on new motorcycles. This suggests that the predominant impact of gasoline prices may be to increase motorcycling among existing riders instead of increasing the number of new riders.”

The authors then speculate about possible causes of these fatalities, including lack of training of new riders and the lack of helmet use—as well as the lack of use of other safety gear like armored riding suits. The authors suggest several policy approaches to try to address this, including requiring riding training for new riders and encouraging new riders to buy safety gear.

You can find the complete article here.

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