Air pollution in the UK is the reason behind the surge in more car accidents, says a new study.
As many as four extra accidents a day could be triggered by air pollution in West London, according to a study by Lutz Sager, an environmental economist at the London School of Economics.
The study on the link between pollution and car accidents focuses on pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, as gas from diesel cars and other vehicles. According to the research, even a small rise in the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide can increase the average number of accidents by 2 percent a day.
‘An area in West London with some of the highest levels of pollution, has an average of 86 car accidents a day.’
Mr Sager, who works in the LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said he could only speculate about exactly why bad air might be affecting drivers.
Drivers can get easily distracted by itchy noses and eyes, said Sager. "There is research that shows that students do worse on tests when there are higher amounts of air pollution in the rooms where they have their test sites. It may be that people feel more tired or are less focused, or have a slower reaction time."
The study divided the UK into a grid of 32 areas, each about 7,700 square kilometers. An area in West London with some of the highest levels of pollution has an average of 86 car accidents a day.
Sager said his research showed that a 30 percent rise in nitrogen dioxide from average levels led to another four accidents a day.
Higher pollution levels might be expected in areas with more cars and therefore a higher risk of accidents, said Sager. The used from Nasa satellites and other sources to isolate the precise effects of pollution alone rather than other factors.
"Whatever the exact mechanisms responsible, the robust finding of a significant effect of air quality on road safety is important given the high cost of road traffic accidents through damage to vehicles and deaths and injuries to people every day," he said.