Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel: Traffic Safety and Drunk Driving
(Health Policy)

Thursday, November 12, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Tuttle South (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Michael T. French, University of Miami
Panel Chairs:  Christopher Carpenter, University of California, Irvine
Discussants:  Christopher Carpenter, University of California, Irvine and Michael T. French, University of Miami

Do Minimum Wages Really Increase Youth Drinking and Drunk Driving?
Joseph Sabia, University of New Hampshire, Melinda Pitts, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Laura Argys, University of Colorado, Denver

Decomposing the Danger of Drinking Drivers: 1983 to 2012
Richard A. Dunn, University of Connecticut and Nathan Tefft, Bates College

Hit-and-Run or Hit-and-Stay: Do Stricter BAC Limits Encourage Drivers to Flee the Crash Scene?
Michael T. French, University of Miami and Gulcin Gumus, Florida Atlantic University; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the first three decades of American’s lives. At the same time, motor vehicle fatalities, especially those that involve drunk driving, constitute one of the most preventable causes of death. As a result, research on traffic safety is not only highly relevant for public policy but an urgent priority. This panel addresses the danger of drunk drivers and the externalities they impose on the rest of the society in the United States. All three papers feature rigorous empirical research utilizing large and rich secondary data from nationally representative datasets. The first paper by Sabia, Pitts, and Argys investigates the causal link between minimum wage increases and drunk driving-related traffic fatalities by using three nationally representative datasets for the period of 1991 to 2011. In contrast to what has been reported in the existing literature, they find little evidence that increases in the minimum wage are associated with increases in the probability of drunk driving. The second paper by Dunn and Tefft introduce an econometric method to differentiate between the relative probability of a drunk-driver causing a serious accident and the probability of dying in a serious accident. Using data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the period of 1983-2013, they show that the relative risk of drunk drivers causing a fatal accident increased over time. The third paper also utilizes data from the 1990-2012 FARS to investigate hit-and-run motor vehicle fatalities. The results suggest that the .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits may have an unintended consequence of increasing hit-and-run fatalities. All three papers in this panel address a variety of public policies including minimum wages, traffic policies, and alcohol policies. The findings have direct implications for policymakers who seek to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. As such, the panel’s theme perfectly fits with the 2015 conference theme of “The Golden Age of Evidence-Based Policy.” The session chair Kitt Carpenter is a leading expert on traffic safety and drunk driving. The rest of the panel participants also have extended research experience in this particular field. The panel participants represent a very diverse group in terms of institutional affiliation, gender, and race/ethnicity.
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