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The Effects of Mandatory Seatbelt Laws on Seatbelt Use, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, and Crash-Related Injuries among Youths

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  • Christopher S. Carpenter
  • Mark Stehr

Abstract

We provide the first comprehensive assessment of the effects of mandatory seatbelt laws on self-reported seatbelt use, highway fatalities, and crash-related injuries among high school age youths using data from the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) national, state, and local Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) from 1991 to 2005, a period spanning over 20 changes in state seatbelt laws. Our quasi-experimental approaches isolate the independent effects of seatbelt laws net of demographic characteristics, area and year fixed effects, and smooth area-specific trends. Across all data sources, we find consistent evidence that state mandatory seatbelt laws -- particularly those permitting primary enforcement -- significantly increased seatbelt use among high school age youths by 45-80 percent, primarily at the extensive margin. Unlike previous research for adults, however, we find evidence against the selective recruitment hypothesis: seatbelt laws had consistently larger effects on those most likely to be involved in traffic accidents (drinkers, alcohol-involved drivers). We also find that mandatory seatbelt laws significantly reduced traffic fatalities and serious injuries resulting from fatal crashes by 8 and 9 percent, respectively. Our results suggest that if all states had primary enforcement seatbelt laws then regular youth seatbelt use would be nearly universal and youth fatalities would fall by about 120 per year.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher S. Carpenter & Mark Stehr, 2007. "The Effects of Mandatory Seatbelt Laws on Seatbelt Use, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, and Crash-Related Injuries among Youths," NBER Working Papers 13408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13408
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    1. Dee, Thomas S. & Grabowski, David C. & Morrisey, Michael A., 2005. "Graduated driver licensing and teen traffic fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 571-589, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dara Lee Luca, 2015. "Do Traffic Tickets Reduce Motor Vehicle Accidents? Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 34(1), pages 85-106, January.
    2. repec:eee:jhecon:v:57:y:2018:i:c:p:102-112 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. Lauren E. Jones & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2017. "U.S. Child Safety Seat Laws: Are they Effective, and Who Complies?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 36(3), pages 584-607, June.
    5. Jeffrey A. Miron & Elina Tetelbaum, 2009. "Does The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Save Lives?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(2), pages 317-336, April.
    6. 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.
    7. Anderson, D. Mark & Sabia, Joseph J., 2016. "Child Access Prevention Laws, Youth Gun Carrying, and School Shootings," IZA Discussion Papers 9830, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. D. Mark Anderson & Benjamin Hansen & Daniel I. Rees, 2013. "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(2), pages 333-369.
    9. Van Ommeren, Jos & Rietveld, Piet & Zagha Hop, Jack & Sabir, Muhammad, 2013. "Killing kilos in car accidents: Are external costs of car weight internalised?," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 86-93.
    10. Anderson, D. Mark, 2010. "Does information matter? The effect of the Meth Project on meth use among youths," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 732-742, September.
    11. Lv, Jinpeng & Lord, Dominique & Zhang, Yunlong & Chen, Zhi, 2015. "Investigating Peltzman effects in adopting mandatory seat belt laws in the US: Evidence from non-occupant fatalities," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 58-64.
    12. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2012. "Per Se Drugged Driving Laws and Traffic Fatalities," IZA Discussion Papers 7048, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Daniel Albalate, 2013. "The Road against Fatalities: Infrastructure Spending vs. Regulation?," ERSA conference papers ersa13p221, European Regional Science Association.
    14. Dills, Angela K., 2010. "Social host liability for minors and underage drunk-driving accidents," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 241-249, March.
    15. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Per se drugged driving laws and traffic fatalities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 122-134.
    16. Vukina, Tomislav & Nestić, Danijel, 2015. "Do people drive safer when accidents are more expensive: Testing for moral hazard in experience rating schemes," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 46-58.
    17. Zhuang Hao & Benjamin W. Cowan, 2017. "The Effects of Graduation Requirements on Risky Health Behaviors of High School Students," NBER Working Papers 23803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Anderson, D. Mark & Sandholt, Sina, 2016. "Booster Seats and Traffic Fatalities among Children," IZA Discussion Papers 10071, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    19. Scott Adams & Chad Cotti & Nathan Tefft, 2013. "Seatbelt Use Following Stricter Drunk Driving Regulations," Working Papers 22, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.

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    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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