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Modeling the Societal Impact of Fatal Accidents

Author

Listed:
  • Paul Slovic

    (Decision Research, Inc., 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401)

  • Sarah Lichtenstein

    (Decision Research, Inc., 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401)

  • Baruch Fischhoff

    (Decision Research, Inc., 1201 Oak Street, Eugene, Oregon 97401)

Abstract

A number of proposals have been put forth regarding the proper way to model the societal impact of fatal accidents. Most of these proposals are based on some form of utility function asserting that the social cost (or disutility) of N lives lost in a single accident is a function of N \alpha . A common view is that a single large accident is more serious than many small accidents producing the same number of fatalities, hence \alpha > 1. Drawing upon a number of empirical studies, we argue that there is insufficient justification for using any function of N fatalities to model societal impacts. The inadequacy of such models is attributed, in part, to the fact that accidents are signals of future trouble. The societal impact of an accident is determined to an important degree by what it signifies or portends. An accident that causes little direct harm may have immense consequences if it increases the judged probability and seriousness of future accidents. We propose that models based solely on functions of N be abandoned in favor of models that elaborate in detail the significant events and consequences likely to result from an accident.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Slovic & Sarah Lichtenstein & Baruch Fischhoff, 1984. "Modeling the Societal Impact of Fatal Accidents," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(4), pages 464-474, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:30:y:1984:i:4:p:464-474
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.30.4.464
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bernard, Carole & Rheinberger, Christoph & Treich, Nicolas, 2017. "Catastrophe Aversion and Risk Equity in an Interdependent World," TSE Working Papers 17-811, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    2. Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala & Henrik Jaldell, 2012. "Do administrators have the same priorities for risk reductions as the general public?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 79-95, August.
    3. Adler, Matthew D. & Hammitt, James K. & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "The social value of mortality risk reduction: VSL versus the social welfare function approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 82-93.
    4. Colin F. Camerer & Howard Kunreuther, 1989. "Decision processes for low probability events: Policy implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 565-592.
    5. Christoph M. Rheinberger & Nicolas Treich, 2017. "Attitudes Toward Catastrophe," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 67(3), pages 609-636, July.
    6. Verteramo Chiu, Leslie J. & Turvey, Calum G., 2015. "Perception and Action in a Conflict Zone: a Study of Rural Economy and Rural Life amidst Narcos in Northeastern Mexico," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205447, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association;Western Agricultural Economics Association.
    7. Weber, Elke U. & Johnson, Eric J., 2012. "Psychology and behavioral economics lessons for the design of a green growth strategy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6240, The World Bank.
    8. Yetano Roche, María & Mourato, Susana & Fischedick, Manfred & Pietzner, Katja & Viebahn, Peter, 2010. "Public attitudes towards and demand for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles: A review of the evidence and methodological implications," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(10), pages 5301-5310, October.

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