The Arms Race on American Roads: The Effect of Suv's and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety

Posted: 15 Sep 2004

See all articles by Michelle J. White

Michelle J. White

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abstract

Drivers have been running an "arms race" on American roads by buying increasingly large vehicles such as SUVs and light trucks. An important reason for the popularity of large vehicles is that families view them as providing better protection to their occupants if a crash occurs. But when families drive large vehicles, they pose an increased danger to occupants of smaller vehicles and to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. This paper measures both the internal effect of large vehicles on their own occupants' safety and their external effect on others. The results show that light trucks are extremely deadly. For each one million light trucks that replace cars, between 34 and 93 additional car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists are killed per year and the value of the lives lost is between $242 and $652 million per year. The safety gain that families obtain for themselves from driving large vehicles comes at a very high cost: for each fatal crash that occupants of large vehicles avoid, at least 4.3 additional fatal crashes involving others occur.

Suggested Citation

White, Michelle J., The Arms Race on American Roads: The Effect of Suv's and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety. Journal of Law and Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=590304

Michelle J. White (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0508
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
598
PlumX Metrics