IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Buckle up or slow down? New estimates of offsetting behavior and their implications for automobile safety regulation


  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Edward P. Harper


This study provides a detailed examination of the determinants of motor vehicle fatalities and offers a new assessment of the effects of automobile safety regulation. An empirical analysis is difficult because drivers are unlikely to remain passive in the face of changes in their safety environment. This offsetting behavior hypothesis is cast in a broad framework that brings together elements from the economics and cognition literatures. This approach allows us to highlight key maintained assumptions in previous analyses and to consider how econometric evidence can inform discussions about highway safety policy. The econometric estimates reveal that, while imprecisely estimated, offsetting behavior is quantitatively important and attenuates the effects of safety regulation on total motor vehicle fatalities. Cognitive elements, the relative costs of repairs, and the functional form of the estimating equation are shown to play prominent roles in the analysis of safety regulation. Our estimates imply that current highway policy initiatives-mandating restraint systems and relaxing restrictions on the maximum speed limit-are likely to have only a modest net effect on reducing motor vehicle fatalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Chirinko & Edward P. Harper, 1993. "Buckle up or slow down? New estimates of offsetting behavior and their implications for automobile safety regulation," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(2), pages 270-296.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:12:y:1993:i:2:p:270-296 DOI: 10.2307/3325236

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Link to full text; subscription required
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blomquist, Glenn C, 1979. "Value of Life Saving: Implications of Consumption Activity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(3), pages 540-558, June.
    2. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    3. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1982. "Risk Perception in Psychology and Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(1), pages 1-9, January.
    4. Cornell, N. & Noll, Roger G. & Weingast, B., "undated". "Safety Regulation," Working Papers 122, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    5. Layson, Stephen K & Seaks, Terry G, 1984. "Estimation and Testing for Functional Form in First Difference Models," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(2), pages 338-343, May.
    6. V. Kerry Smith & William H. Desvousges & F. Reed Johnson & Ann Fisher, 1990. "Can public information programs affect risk perceptions?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(1), pages 41-59.
    7. Peltzman, Sam, 1975. "The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 677-725, August.
    8. 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.
    9. Machina, Mark J, 1987. "Choice under Uncertainty: Problems Solved and Unsolved," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 121-154, Summer.
    10. Crandall, Robert W & Graham, John D, 1984. "Automobile Safety Regulation and Offsetting Behavior: Some New Empirical Estimates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 328-331, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. Darren Grant & Stephen M. Rutner, 2004. "The effect of bicycle helmet legislation on bicycling fatalities," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(3), pages 595-611.
    2. Anindya Sen & Brent Mizzen, 2007. "Estimating the Impact of Seat Belt Use on Traffic Fatalities: Empirical Evidence from Canada," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 33(3), pages 315-336, September.
    3. Michael Grimm & Carole Treibich, 2013. "Why Do Some Bikers Wear a Helmet and Others Don't? Evidence from Delhi, India," AMSE Working Papers 1348, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised 10 Oct 2013.
    4. Peterson, Steven & Hoffer, George & Millner, Edward, 1995. "Are Drivers of Air-Bag-Equipped Cars More Aggressive? A Test of the Offsetting Behavior Hypothesis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 251-264, October.
    5. Berlemann, Michael & Matthes, Andreas, 2014. "Positive externalities from active car safety systems," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 313-329.
    6. Grimm, Michael & Treibich, Carole, 2016. "Why do some motorbike riders wear a helmet and others don’t? Evidence from Delhi, India," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 318-336.
    7. Heather E. Campbell, 1996. "The politics of requesting: Strategic behavior and public utility regulation," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(3), pages 395-423.
    8. Potter Joel M, 2011. "Estimating the Offsetting Effects of Driver Behavior in Response to Safety Regulation: The Case of Formula One Racing," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 1-22, July.
    9. Clifford Winston & Vikram Maheshri & Fred Mannering, 2006. "An exploration of the offset hypothesis using disaggregate data: The case of airbags and antilock brakes," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 83-99, March.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    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:wly:jpamgt:v:12:y:1993:i:2:p:270-296. 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: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with 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.