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One happy upside to the $4 gallon of gas: traffic deaths have plummeted. The National Safety Council finds that in some states, deaths from traffic accidents have declined by as much as 20 percent this year compared with the same period last year. Indiana, which has seen a 26 percent decline, may hit the lowest number of traffic deaths in 18 years. The country hasn't seen such a precipitous fall in traffic deaths since the Arab oil embargo in 1973. The AP reports on speculation that people are simply driving less, thus fewer accidents, but also that high gas prices and a sour economy might be keeping drunks at home rather out on the roads.
One possible contributor they don't mention is Americans' mass abandonment of the SUV, which has been responsible for a disproportionate number of highway deaths both from rollovers and also from squashing other smaller cars that might survive an accident with a sedan. Now, if Congress would follow Sen. John Warner's advice and lower the speed limit, the nation might see a massive reduction in highway carnage that would even make Ralph Nader proud!