The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities

48 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2001

See all articles by Alma Cohen

Alma Cohen

Harvard Law School; Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Liran Einav

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abstract

This paper investigates the effects of mandatory seat belt laws on driver behavior and traffic fatalities. Using a unique panel data set on seat belt usage rates in all U.S. jurisdictions, we analyze how such laws, by influencing seat belt use, affect traffic fatalities. Controlling for the endogeneity of seat belt usage, we find that it decreases overall traffic fatalities. The magnitude of this effect, however, is significantly smaller than the estimate used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Testing the compensating behavior theory, which suggests that seat belt use also has an adverse effect on fatalities by encouraging careless driving, we find that this theory is not supported by the data. Finally, we identify factors, especially the type of enforcement used, that make seat belt laws more effective in increasing seat belt usage.

JEL Classification: C13, I12, K32, K42, R40

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Alma and Einav, Liran, The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=293582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.293582

Alma Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4099 (Phone)
(617) 812-0554 (Fax)

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

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Israel

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

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Belgium

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Liran Einav

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

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928-223-4973 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

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