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Why have traffic fatalities declined in industrialized countries ? Implications for pedestrians and vehicle occupants

  • Kopits, Elizabeth
  • Cropper, Maureen

This paper examines whether the relationship between traffic fatalities and per capita income is the same for different classes of road users and investigates the factors underlying the decline in fatalities per vehicle kilometer traveled (VKT) observed in high-income countries over recent decades. Formal models of traffic fatalities are developed for vehicle occupants and pedestrians. Reduced-form approximations to these models are estimated using panel data for 32 high-income countries over 1964-2002. The results suggest that the downward-sloping portion of the curve relating traffic fatalities per capita to per capita income is due primarily to improved pedestrian safety. The more detailed models shed light on some factors influencing pedestrian fatalities per VKT, but much of the reduction in pedestrian fatalities remains unexplained. Increased motorization and a reduction in the proportion of young drivers in the population, however, clearly played a role. In contrast to pedestrian fatalities, occupant fatalities do not show a significant decline with income. What does explain declines in occupant fatalities per VKT are reductions in alcohol abuse and improved medical services, and a reduction in young drivers. The importance of demographic factors suggests that in countries where young persons (between 15 and 24 years of age) comprise an increasing share of the driving population, adopting policies to improve young driver education and reduce speeds will be crucial.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3678.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3678
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  1. P. A. Scuffham, 2003. "Economic factors and traffic crashes in New Zealand," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(2), pages 179-188.
  2. Lindgren, Bjorn & Stuart, Charles, 1980. "The Effects of Traffic Safety Regulation in Sweden," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 412-27, April.
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  5. Sass, Tim R & Zimmerman, Paul R, 2000. "Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Motorcyclist Fatalities," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 195-215, November.
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  8. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2003. "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 828-843, November.
  9. Aaron S. Edlin, 2003. "Per-Mile Premiums for Auto Insurance," Law and Economics 0303001, EconWPA.
  10. Evans, William N & Graham, John D, 1991. " Risk Reduction or Risk Compensation? The Case of Mandatory Safety-Belt Use Laws," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 61-73, January.
  11. Kopits, Elizabeth & Cropper, Maureen, 2003. "Traffic fatalities and economic growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3035, The World Bank.
  12. Peter Asch & David T. Levy, 1987. "Does the minimum drinking age affect traffic fatalities?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(2), pages 180-192.
  13. Garbacz, Christopher, 1990. "Estimating seat belt effectiveness with seat belt usage data from the Centers for Disease Control," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 83-88, September.
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  15. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2003. "Cluster-Sample Methods in Applied Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 133-138, May.
  16. Peltzman, Sam, 1975. "The Effects of Automobile Safety Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 677-725, August.
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