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Deterrence and Compliance in a Demerit Point System


  • Marcello Basili


  • Antonio Nicita



This paper attempts to outline the virtues and the perverse effects of a Demerit Point System (DPS). Under a DPS, once overcome a given threshold of demerit points, infringers are punished by severe non-monetary sanctions (such as the temporarily suspension of driving license in traffic enforcement). Surprisingly, no comprehensive economic theory has been provided to support the widespread implementation of DPS. This paper tries to fill this gap. We show that the impact of a DPS depends on the distribution of preferences of the population of potential infringers. For some agents a DPS far from increasing deterrence may actually reinforce deviant behavior. Only for some group of agents, once a given threshold of accumulated penalties has been reached compliance may occur. Thus compliance is obtained only after some level of under-deterrence is tolerated. We then provide some policy suggestions in order to improve general deterrence under a DPS for any given level of detection policy. Our results seem to be consistent with available evidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcello Basili & Antonio Nicita, 2005. "Deterrence and Compliance in a Demerit Point System," Department of Economics University of Siena 458, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:458

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Castillo-Manzano, José I. & Castro-Nuño, Mercedes, 2012. "Driving licenses based on points systems: Efficient road safety strategy or latest fashion in global transport policy? A worldwide meta-analysis," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(C), pages 191-201.

    More about this item


    Demerit Point System; Deterrence; Compliance; Recidivism; Public Law Enforcement; Traffic Law Enforcement;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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