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General Deterrence of Drunk Driving: Evaluation of Recent American Policies

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  • William N. Evans
  • Doreen Neville
  • John D. Graham

Abstract

A testable hypothesis of deterrence theory is that efforts to increase the expected cost of criminal activity by increasing the threat of punishment should, other things being equal, reduce the crime rate. In this paper, we examine whether the incidence of drinking and driving is responsive to escalation of the punitive threat. The recent national campaign against drunk driving provides a natural experiment in which to test the predictions of deterrence theory. Using state level data over the 1975–1986 period, we report no conclusive evidence that any specific form of punitive legislation is having a measurable effect on motor vehicle fatalities. We report suggestive evidence that multiple laws designed to increase the certainty of punishment (e.g., sobriety checkpoints and preliminary breath tests) have a synergistic deterrent effect. The most striking finding is that mandatory seat belt use laws and beer taxes may be more effective at reducing drunk driving fatalities than policies aimed at general deterrence.

Suggested Citation

  • William N. Evans & Doreen Neville & John D. Graham, 1991. "General Deterrence of Drunk Driving: Evaluation of Recent American Policies," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 11(2), pages 279-289, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:riskan:v:11:y:1991:i:2:p:279-289
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.1991.tb00604.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Philip J. Cook & George Tauchen, 1984. "The Effect of Minimum Drinking Age Legislation on Youthful Auto Fatalities, 1970-1977," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 169-190, January.
    3. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ruhm, Christopher J., 1996. "Alcohol policies and highway vehicle fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 435-454, August.
    2. Bruce L. Benson, 2007. "Private Policing And Private Roads: A Coasian Approach To Drunk‐Driving Policy," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 30-38, December.
    3. Rebollo-Sanz, Yolanda & Rodríguez-López, Jesús & Rodríguez-Planas, Núria, 2021. "Penalty-point system, deterrence and road safety: A quasi-experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 408-433.
    4. Paul L. Zador & Adrian K. Lund, 1993. "Note and Comment on “General Deterrence of Drunk Driving: Evaluation of Recent American Policies”," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 13(1), pages 17-20, February.
    5. Parry Ian W. H. & West Sarah E & Laxminarayan Ramanan, 2009. "Fiscal and Externality Rationales for Alcohol Policies," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-48, July.
    6. William N. Evans & John D. Graham & Doreen Neville, 1993. "Toward Humility in Statistical Interpretation," Risk Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 13(1), pages 21-22, February.

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