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Speed limit laws in America: Economics, politics and geography


  • Daniel Albalate

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Barcelona)

  • Germà Bel

    () (Faculty of Economics, University of Barcelona)


The regulation of speed limits in the US had been centralized at the federal level since 1974, until decisions were devolved to the states in 1995. However, the centralization debate has reemerged in recent years. Here, we conduct the first econometric analysis of the determinants of speed limit laws. By using economic, geographic and political variables, our results suggest that geography -which affects private mobility needs and preferences- is the main factor influencing speed limit laws. We also highlight the role played by political ideology, with Republican constituencies being associated with higher speed limits. Furthermore, we identify the presence of regional and time dependence effects. By contrast, poor road safety outcomes do not impede the enactment of high speed limits. Overall, we present the first evidence of the role played by geographical, ideological and regional characteristics, which provide us with a better understanding of the formulation of speed limit policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Albalate & Germà Bel, 2010. "Speed limit laws in America: Economics, politics and geography," IREA Working Papers 201002, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Jan 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:ira:wpaper:201002

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Republican constituencies have higher speed limits
      by Ariel Goldring in Free Market Mojo on 2010-03-03 16:00:24


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    Cited by:

    1. Belles-Sampera, Jaume & Merigó, José M. & Guillén, Montserrat & Santolino, Miguel, 2013. "The connection between distortion risk measures and ordered weighted averaging operators," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 411-420.
    2. Jordi Perdiguero & Juan Luis Jiménez, 2012. "“Policy options for the promotion of electric vehicles: a review”," IREA Working Papers 201208, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Mar 2012.
    3. Ernest Miguélez & Rorina Moreno, 2012. "“What attracts knowledge workers? The role of space, social connections, institutions, jobs and amenities”," IREA Working Papers 201204, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Feb 2012.
    4. Juan Luis Jiménez & Jordi Perdiguero, 2012. "“Mergers and difference-in-difference estimator: why firms do not increase prices?”," IREA Working Papers 201205, University of Barcelona, Research Institute of Applied Economics, revised Feb 2012.

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    Speed Limit Laws; Transport Policy; Social Preferences; Policy Analysis.;

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