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

51 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2007  

Christopher S. Carpenter

University of California, Irvine - Paul Merage School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mark Stehr

Drexel University

Date Written: September 2007

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

Carpenter, Christopher S. and Stehr, Mark, The Effects of Mandatory Seatbelt Laws on Seatbelt Use, Motor Vehicle Fatalities, and Crash-Related Injuries Among Youths (September 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13408. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1014787

Christopher S. Carpenter (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Paul Merage School of Business ( email )

Irvine, CA California 92697-3125
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mark Stehr

Drexel University ( email )

3141 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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