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Criminal Deterrence When There Are Offsetting Risks: Traffic Cameras, Vehicular Accidents, and Public Safety


  • Justin Gallagher
  • Paul J. Fisher


Numerous cities have enacted electronic monitoring programs at traffic intersections in an effort to reduce the high number of vehicle accidents. The rationale is that the higher expected fines for running a red light will induce drivers to stop and lead to fewer cross-road collisions. However, the cameras also incentivize drivers to accept a greater accident risk from stopping. We evaluate the termination of a monitoring program via a voter referendum using 12 years of geocoded police accident data. We find that the cameras changed the composition of accidents but no evidence of a reduction in total accidents or injuries.

Suggested Citation

  • Justin Gallagher & Paul J. Fisher, 2020. "Criminal Deterrence When There Are Offsetting Risks: Traffic Cameras, Vehicular Accidents, and Public Safety," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 202-237, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:12:y:2020:i:3:p:202-37
    DOI: 10.1257/pol.20170674

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael L. Anderson, 2014. "Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2763-2796, September.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 2017. "Undergraduate Econometrics Instruction: Through Our Classes, Darkly," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 125-144, Spring.
    3. Ian W. H. Parry & Kenneth A. Small, 2009. "Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 700-724, June.
    4. Wong, Timothy, 2014. "Lights, camera, legal action! The effectiveness of red light cameras on collisions in Los Angeles," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 165-182.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Chris Sampson’s journal round-up for 24th August 2020
      by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2020-08-24 11:00:07


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    Cited by:

    1. Anand, Vaibhav, 2001. "The Value of Forecast Improvements: Evidence from Advisory Lead Times and Vehicle Crashes," SocArXiv hdpga, Center for Open Science.
    2. West, Jeremy & Fairlie, Robert W & Pratt, Bryan & Rose, Liam, 2021. "Automated Enforcement of Irrigation Regulations and Social Pressure for Water Conservation," Santa Cruz Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt9622h00n, Department of Economics, UC Santa Cruz.
    3. Barnes, Stephen R. & Beland, Louis-Philippe & Huh, Jason & Kim, Dongwoo, 2020. "The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdown on Mobility and Traffic Accidents: Evidence from Louisiana," GLO Discussion Paper Series 616, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Conover, Emily & Kraynak, Daniel & Singh, Prakarsh, 2023. "The effect of traffic cameras on police effort: Evidence from India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C).
    5. Stephen R. Barnes & Louis‐Philippe Beland & Jason Huh & Dongwoo Kim, 2022. "COVID‐19 lockdown and traffic accidents: Lessons from the pandemic," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(2), pages 349-368, April.
    6. Anand, Vaibhav, 2022. "The Value of Forecast Improvements: Evidence from Advisory Lead Times and Vehicle Crashes," MPRA Paper 114491, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Fry, Jane M., 2023. "Do increased speeding fines save lives?," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 34(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise


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