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The effect of bicycle helmet legislation on bicycling fatalities


  • Darren Grant

    (Department of Economics, University of Texas-Arlington)

  • Stephen M. Rutner

    (Department of Management, Marketing, and Logistics, Georgia Southern University)


A number of states passed legislation in the 1990s requiring youths to wear helmets when riding bicycles. The effect of this legislation on bicycling fatalities is examined by subjecting data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to a panel analysis, using a control-group methodology. A helmet law reduces fatalities by about 15 percent in the long run, less in the short run. There is no evidence of spillover effects (to adults) or substitution effects (youths choosing other methods of transportation) associated with implementation of a helmet law. Through 2000, existing helmet laws have saved 130 lives. If all states had adopted helmet laws in 1975, more than 1500 lives would have been saved. © 2004 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:23:y:2004:i:3:p:595-611 DOI: 10.1002/pam.20029

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Merrell & Marc Poitras & Daniel Sutter, 1999. "The Effectiveness of Vehicle Safety Inspections: An Analysis Using Panel Data," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 571-583, January.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1999:89:11:1736-1738_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    4. Janusz R. Mrozek & Laura O. Taylor, 2002. "What determines the value of life? a meta-analysis," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(2), pages 253-270.
    5. Young, Douglas J. & Likens, Thomas W., 2000. "Alcohol Regulation and Auto Fatalities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 107-126, March.
    6. 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.
    7. Sloan, Frank A. & Reilly, Bridget A. & Schenzler, Christoph M., 1994. "Tort liability versus other approaches for deterring careless driving," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 53-71, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sara Markowitz & Pinka Chatterji, 2015. "Effects Of Bicycle Helmet Laws On Children'S Injuries," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(1), pages 26-40, January.
    2. French, Michael T. & Gumus, Gulcin & Homer, Jenny F., 2009. "Public policies and motorcycle safety," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 831-838, July.
    3. Christopher S. Carpenter & Mark F. Stehr, 2010. "Intended and Unintended Effects of Youth Bicycle Helmet Laws," NBER Working Papers 15658, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Darren Grant, 2010. "Dead On Arrival: Zero Tolerance Laws Don'T Work," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 756-770, July.
    5. Christopher S. Carpenter & Mark Stehr, 2011. "Intended and Unintended Consequences of Youth Bicycle Helmet Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 305-324.

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