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Buckle-Up or Slow-Down? New Estimates of Offsetting Behavior and Their Implications for Automobile Safety Regulation

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  • Robert S. Chirinko
  • Edward P. Harper, Jr.

Abstract

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 made 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 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, Jr., 1992. "Buckle-Up or Slow-Down? New Estimates of Offsetting Behavior and Their Implications for Automobile Safety Regulation," Working Papers 9207, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:9207
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Marc Poitras & Daniel Sutter, 2002. "Policy Ineffectiveness or Offsetting Behavior? An Analysis of Vehicle Safety Inspections," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 68(4), pages 922-934, April.
    4. Firth, Chris, 2020. "Protecting investors from themselves: Evidence from a regulatory intervention," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(C).
    5. Germà Bel & Óscar Gasulla & Ferran A. Mazaira-Font, 2020. "The effect of health and economic costs on governments' policy responses to COVID-19 crisis, under incomplete information," IREA Working Papers 202008, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Jun 2020.
    6. 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, France, revised 10 Oct 2013.
    7. 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.
    8. Asmussen, Katherine E. & Mondal, Aupal & Bhat, Chandra R., 2022. "Adoption of partially automated vehicle technology features and impacts on vehicle miles of travel (VMT)," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 156-179.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Fabian Pütz & Finbarr Murphy & Martin Mullins, 2019. "Driving to a future without accidents? Connected automated vehicles’ impact on accident frequency and motor insurance risk," Environment Systems and Decisions, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 383-395, December.
    12. 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.
    13. Berlemann, Michael & Matthes, Andreas, 2014. "Positive externalities from active car safety systems," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 313-329.
    14. J. Brian O'Roark & William C. Wood, 2004. "Safety at the Racetrack: Results of Restrictor Plates in Superspeedway Competition," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 71(1), pages 118-129, July.
    15. 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.
    16. Russell S. Sobel & Todd M. Nesbit, 2007. "Automobile Safety Regulation and the Incentive to Drive Recklessly: Evidence from NASCAR," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 74(1), pages 71-84, July.

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