The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a massive push toward remote work for industries that could accommodate at-home workers. While there are countless arguments in favor of continuing that strategy even after vaccinations allow for more remote work, a new study reveals that there’s a new argument in play: traffic deaths.
This study, Death on the job: The Great Recession and work-related traffic fatalities by Michael T. French and Gulcin Gumus, finds that traffic deaths are more closely a result of increased work than they are risky behaviors. The abstract reads as follows:
Specifically, we implement a longitudinal design across all 50 states by compiling quarterly data for 2004–2012 and consider macroeconomic fluctuations around the Great Recession. Our findings show that traffic deaths during prosperous times are not solely due to an increase in risky behaviors such as drunk driving, but directly related to work. Given the highly preventable nature of traffic crashes, policy makers, public health advocates, and employers can develop effective strategies, including remote work arrangements, to improve both occupational and traffic safety.
That being said, just studying the numbers only revealed a part of the issue; the authors note that most current studies about car crashes analyze things like drunkenness, but few people are generally asked if their accident occurred while they were heading to work or were traveling for work. The authors fit accidents into business cycle patterns and extrapolate data from that point, but they recommend further studies be completed in order to truly understand the impact of economic booms and work-related traffic.
Traffic safety may end up being a more convincing argument than anything else, since it not just cuts down on deaths but also on the amount of cars releasing carbon emissions into the air. That said, we should also be taking into consideration the fact that remote work more easily accommodates non-traditional workers, like those with disabilities. Performance generally increases, people stay healthier and therefore need less time off, and it provides more time for workers to spend with their families and take care of their health and needs. But there’s a chance to improve safety and the environment, too.