Stay or Flee? Probability versus Severity of Punishment in Hit-and-Run Accidents

46 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2019

See all articles by Stefano Castriota

Stefano Castriota

University of Pisa

Mirco Tonin

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; IZA; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Date Written: 2019


The empirical literature testing the economic theory of crime has extensively studied the relative importance of the probability and the severity of punishment with reference to planned criminal activities. There are, however, also unplanned crimes and in this paper we focus on a very serious and widespread one, hit-and-run road accidents. In fact, it is not only unplanned, but also largely committed by citizens without criminal records and the decision whether to stay or run must be taken within a few seconds. Using Italian data for the period 1996-2016, we rely on daylight as an exogenous source of variation affecting the probability of apprehension and find that the likelihood of hit-and-run conditional on an accident taking place increases by around 20% with darkness. Relying on two legislative reforms which increased the penalties in case of hit-and-run, we find no significant effect on driver' behavior. Our results show that criminal activities in unplanned circumstances and under intense time pressure and emotional distress are deterred more by the certainty rather than the severity of legal sanctions.

Keywords: crime, hit-and-run, road, accidents, punishment

JEL Classification: D910, K140, K420, R410

Suggested Citation

Castriota, Stefano and Tonin, Mirco, Stay or Flee? Probability versus Severity of Punishment in Hit-and-Run Accidents (2019). CESifo Working Paper No. 7907, Available at SSRN:

Stefano Castriota (Contact Author)

University of Pisa ( email )

Lungarno Pacinotti, 43
Pisa PI, 56126

Mirco Tonin

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano ( email )

Sernesiplatz 1
Bozen-Bolzano, BZ 39100

IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072


CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

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