IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/transa/v28y1994i2p109-118.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Can one estimate the value of life or is it better to be dead than stuck in traffic?

Author

Listed:
  • Hauer, E.

Abstract

In an analysis of whether to replace STOP signs by YIELD signs, the value of life lost was pegged at $1,500,000 and the value of time at $6.71/hour. These numbers imply that when the sum of traffic delays accumulated by many drivers is equal in duration to the average lifetime lost in a fatal crash (37.3 years), the cost of such delay is higher than the cost of an average lost life. Most find this to be disturbing. If so, why is it that estimates of the value of time and life allegedly based on people's preferences are at odds with what most prefer? A search for the root of this problem leads to Schelling's distinction between the value of death to those who die and the value of the probability of dying to those who live. He thinks that while it is not possible to put a value on one's own death, it is possible to put a value on changes in the probability of one's own death. I think that this distinction does not solve the problem. If it is impossible to have preferences for consequences that would have to be experienced posthumously, it cannot help to make the event of death still more remote by a dimly perceived probability. People may be willing to express preferences and econometricians may be eager to interpret them. But, inasmuch as these preference are vacuous, they have no interpretation and attempts to do so may lead to the noted inconsistency. Consistent use of a wildly incorrect value of life in cost-benefit analyses involving risk leads to consistently incorrect conclusions. Instead of using a questionable value of life in dispassionate-looking computations, it may be better to give legitimacy to public decisions more directly by a mechanism akin to a ballot or a jury.

Suggested Citation

  • Hauer, E., 1994. "Can one estimate the value of life or is it better to be dead than stuck in traffic?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 109-118, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:28:y:1994:i:2:p:109-118
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0965-8564(94)90032-9
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Elvik, Rune, 2013. "Paradoxes of rationality in road safety policy," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 62-70.
    2. Arianne de Blaeij & Raymond J.G.M. Florax & Piet Rietveld & Erik T. Verhoef, 2000. "The Value of Statistical Life in Road Safety: A Meta-Analysis," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 00-089/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    3. Holz-Rau, Christian & Scheiner, Joachim, 2011. "Safety and travel time in cost-benefit analysis: A sensitivity analysis for North Rhine-Westphalia," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 336-346, March.
    4. repec:eee:transa:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:333-349 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Mouter, Niek & Annema, Jan Anne & van Wee, Bert, 2013. "Ranking the substantive problems in the Dutch Cost–Benefit Analysis practice," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 241-255.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:28:y:1994:i:2:p:109-118. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/547/description#description .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.