Life and Death in the Fast Lane: Police Enforcement and Traffic Fatalities

40 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2011 Last revised: 25 May 2013

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA

Gregory J. DeAngelo

West Virginia University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 24, 2013

Abstract

This paper estimates the causal effect of police on traffic fatalities and injuries. Due to simultaneity, estimating the causal effect of police on crime is often difficult. We overcome this obstacle by focusing on a mass layoff of Oregon State Police in February of 2003, stemming from changes in property tax assessment in the prior decade. Due solely to budget cuts, 35 percent of the roadway troopers were laid off, which dramatically reduced citations. The subsequent decrease in enforcement is associated with a significant increase in injuries and fatalities, with the strongest effects under fair weather conditions outside of city-limits where state police employment levels are most relevant. The effects are similar using control groups chosen either geographically or through data-driven methods. Our estimates suggest that a highway fatality can be prevented with $309,000 of expenditures on state police.

Keywords: Enforcement, Police and Crime, Deterrence, Traffic Fatalities, Roadway Safety

JEL Classification: K1, K4, H4, R4

Suggested Citation

Hansen, Benjamin and DeAngelo, Gregory J., Life and Death in the Fast Lane: Police Enforcement and Traffic Fatalities (May 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1940134 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1940134

Benjamin Hansen (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

1285 University of ORegon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Gregory Joseph DeAngelo

West Virginia University - Department of Economics ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

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