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It seems to be generally assumed that making cars safer for the occupants will reduce death, injury, and damage from traffic accidents.

What does economics have to say on this and what are some examples of significant empirical research on this topic? Specifically, do safety features cause drivers to engage in more risky behavior than they otherwise would? If so, what is the net effect of additional safety mechanisms?

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migrated to cogsci.stackexchange.com by Jason B May 1 '12 at 12:59

This question belongs on our site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry.

"damage from traffic accidents. " I do not think this is part of it at all. My cynical view is the drive is to keep the drivers alive so that there is someone to sue after the accident. But if you look at the safety designs most of them actually increase the damage to the vehicle (crumple zones, one time deployment airbags at 2k a pop) in order to reduce the energy transfer to the occupants. That said this is probably a better question for Skeptics SE –  Chad Oct 31 '11 at 14:45
the empirical research is in the transport stats literature, not the economics literature: as such, this questions looks to be off-topic –  EnergyNumbers Oct 31 '11 at 15:02
@Chad Interestingly, the increased cost of vehicle repair due to crumple zones and air bags has been proposed as a possible cause of reduced accident rates. I don't have the article in my database, but if I recall correctly, the idea was that the fear of costly repairs induced safe driving (and possibly offset the moral hazard effects of having the technology). –  Jason B Oct 31 '11 at 15:25
Also, I am extremely perplexed at the close votes on this question. Is it the view of econ.se that only questions about money are in the domain of economics? I hope Gary Becker doesn't see this! –  Jason B Oct 31 '11 at 15:34
@JasonB - I find that unlikely with mandatory insurance. You either have insurance because you do not want to lose what you have or you do not because you have nothing to lose. –  Chad Oct 31 '11 at 16:43