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The "Arms Race" on American Roads: The Effect of Sport Utility Vehicles and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety

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  • White, Michelle J

Abstract

Drivers have been running an "arms race" on American roads by buying increasingly large vehicles such as sport utility vehicles and light trucks. But large vehicles pose an increased danger to occupants of smaller vehicles and to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. This paper measures both the internal effect of large vehicles on their own occupants' safety and their external effect on others. The results show that light trucks are extremely deadly. For each 1 million light trucks that replace cars, between 34 and 93 additional car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists are killed per year, and the value of the lives lost is between $242 and $652 million per year. The safety gain that families obtain for themselves from driving large vehicles comes at a very high cost: for each fatal crash that occupants of large vehicles avoid, at least 4.3 additional fatal crashes involving others occur.

Suggested Citation

  • White, Michelle J, 2004. "The "Arms Race" on American Roads: The Effect of Sport Utility Vehicles and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(2), pages 333-355, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2004:v:47:i:2:p:333-55
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/422979
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthew G. Nagler, 2008. "Network Externalities, Mutuality, and Compatibility," Working Papers 08-37, NET Institute, revised Oct 2008.
    2. repec:ucp:jaerec:doi:10.1086/695614 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Lauren E. Jones & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2017. "U.S. Child Safety Seat Laws: Are they Effective, and Who Complies?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 36(3), pages 584-607, June.
    4. Small, Kenneth A., 2012. "Energy policies for passenger motor vehicles," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 46(6), pages 874-889.
    5. Kenneth Button, 2011. "Transport and Energy," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Transport Economics, chapter 18 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    6. Lauren E. Jones & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2016. "Successful Scientific Replication and Extension of Levitt (2008): Child Seats are Still No Safer Than Seat Belts," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(5), pages 920-928, August.
    7. Mark R. Jacobsen, 2012. "Fuel Economy and Safety: The Influences of Vehicle Class and Driver Behavior," NBER Working Papers 18012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Eren Inci & Jos van Ommeren & Martijn Kobus, 2017. "The external cruising costs of parking," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(6), pages 1301-1323.
    9. van den Bijgaart, Inge, 2016. "Essays in environmental economics and policy," Other publications TiSEM 298bee2a-cb08-4173-9fe1-8, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    10. Paul J. Burke & Shuhei Nishitateno, 2015. "Gasoline Prices And Road Fatalities: International Evidence," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(3), pages 1437-1450, July.
    11. Kyle Kinler & Jeffrey Wagner, 2014. "Greenness versus safety in vehicle footprint selection," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 35-45, March.
    12. Tscharaktschiew, Stefan, 2014. "Shedding light on the appropriateness of the (high) gasoline tax level in Germany," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 189-210.
    13. Rainald Borck & Jan K. Brueckner, 2018. "Optimal Energy Taxation in Cities," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 481-516.
    14. Koichiro Ito & James M. Sallee, 2014. "The Economics of Attribute-Based Regulation: Theory and Evidence from Fuel-Economy Standards," NBER Working Papers 20500, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Dhammika Dharmapala & Sandra A. Hoffmann, 2005. "Bilateral Accidents with Intrinsically Interdependent Costs of Precaution," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 239-272, January.
    16. Matthew G. Nagler, 2005. "Adverse Network Effects, Moral Hazard, and the Case of Sport-Utility Vehicles," Working Papers 05-20, NET Institute, revised Oct 2005.
    17. Fischbeck, Paul S. & Gengler, Barbara & Gerard, David & Weinberg, Randy S., 2007. "An Interactive Tool to Compare and Communicate Traffic Safety Risks: TrafficSTATS," Journal of the Transportation Research Forum, Transportation Research Forum, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 1-17.
    18. Brozovic, Nicholas & Ando, Amy Whritenour, 2009. "Defensive purchasing, the safety (dis)advantage of light trucks, and motor-vehicle policy effectiveness," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 477-493, June.
    19. repec:kap:enreec:v:69:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10640-016-0067-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Castillo-Manzano, José I. & Castro-Nuño, Mercedes & Fageda, Xavier, 2016. "Exploring the relationship between truck load capacity and traffic accidents in the European Union," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 94-109.
    21. Ian W. H. Parry & Margaret Walls & Winston Harrington, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(2), pages 373-399, June.
    22. Steimetz, Seiji S.C., 2008. "Defensive driving and the external costs of accidents and travel delays," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 42(9), pages 703-724, November.
    23. Van Ommeren, Jos & Rietveld, Piet & Zagha Hop, Jack & Sabir, Muhammad, 2013. "Killing kilos in car accidents: Are external costs of car weight internalised?," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 86-93.
    24. Matthew G. Nagler, 2013. "Does Social Capital Promote Safety On The Roads?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1218-1231, April.
    25. de Palma, André & Kilani, Moez & Lindsey, Robin, 2008. "The merits of separating cars and trucks," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 340-361, September.

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