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Every Little Helps

Thursday, May 29, 2003

On Seatbelts


The seatbelt conundrum: as is well known, in identical accidents, people wearing seatbelts will generally be much better off than people not wearing seatbelts. But, as is also known (but not as well), drivers wearing seatbelts, on average, drive worse than drivers not wearing seatbelts. That is, when they're forced by law to wear seatbelts; people who choose to wear seatbelts when they don't have to are also generally safer drivers. But those who would normally not automatically wear seatbelts, when they have to wear them, feel safer, so they're less cautious. So, they have more accidents. According to my economics textbook (of all places), the increased accidents and increased safety pretty much cancel out, making it that seatbelt laws are neutral in terms of drivers and bad for pedestrians. But, seatbelts in and of themselves are helpful things, and they're not to blame for the bad psychological effect they have on people. So, what the solution? Enact universal seatbelt laws that are good in intent but end up just being bad for pedestrians?

I'd say have child-seatbelt laws (gotta strap your kid in), but leave others up to discretion. But I think it's an interesting problem.

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