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Traffic Safety and Vehicle Choice: Quantifying the Effects of the "Arms Race" on American Roads


  • Li, Shanjun

    () (Resources for the Future)


The increasing market share of light trucks in the U.S. in recent years has been characterized as an “arms race” where individual purchase of light trucks for better self-protection in collisions nevertheless leads to worse traffic safety for the society. This paper investigates the interrelation between traffic safety and vehicle choice by quantifying the effects of the arms race on vehicle demand, producer performance, and traffic safety. The empirical analysis shows that the accident externality of a light truck amounts to $2,444 in 2006 dollars during vehicle lifetime. Counterfactual simulations suggest that about 12 percent of new light trucks sold in 2006 and 204 traffic fatalities could be attributed to the arms race.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Shanjun, 2009. "Traffic Safety and Vehicle Choice: Quantifying the Effects of the "Arms Race" on American Roads," Discussion Papers dp-09-33, Resources For the Future.
  • Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-09-33

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    Cited by:

    1. Nicolai V. Kuminoff & V. Kerry Smith & Christopher Timmins, 2013. "The New Economics of Equilibrium Sorting and Policy Evaluation Using Housing Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1007-1062, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Chu, Ziyan & Muehlenbachs, Lucija & Staubli, Stefan, 2017. "The Accident Externality from Trucking," CEPR Discussion Papers 12314, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Soren T. Anderson & Ian W. H. Parry & James M. Sallee & Carolyn Fischer, 2011. "Automobile Fuel Economy Standards: Impacts, Efficiency, and Alternatives," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 89-108, Winter.
    5. Lauren E. Jones & Nicolas R. Ziebarth, 2016. "Successful Scientific Replication and Extension of Levitt (2008): Child Seats are Still No Safer Than Seat Belts," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(5), pages 920-928, August.
    6. French, Michael T. & Gumus, Gulcin, 2014. "Macroeconomic fluctuations and motorcycle fatalities in the U.S," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 187-193.
    7. Li, Shanjun & Liu, Yanyan & Zhang, Junjie, 2009. "Lose Some, Save Some: Obesity, Automobile Demand, and Gasoline Consumption in the U.S," Discussion Papers dp-09-34, Resources For the Future.
    8. Kyle Kinler & Jeffrey Wagner, 2014. "Greenness versus safety in vehicle footprint selection," Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 35-45, March.
    9. Tscharaktschiew, Stefan, 2014. "Shedding light on the appropriateness of the (high) gasoline tax level in Germany," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 189-210.
    10. repec:eee:resene:v:49:y:2017:i:c:p:99-112 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Thomas Klier & Joshua Linn, 2011. "Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards and the Market for New Vehicles," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 445-462, October.

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    accident externality; automobile demand; random coefficient demand model;

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