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Regulating Traffic Safety

Regulating Traffic Safety

Martin Friedland
Michael Trebilcock
kent Roach
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 210
  • Book Info
    Regulating Traffic Safety
    Book Description:

    Traffic accidents are responsible for the greatest number of deaths each year for many age groups. At present, authorities rely heavily on policing and prosecutions to control accidents. The authors of this work examine the effectiveness of these and other techniques, and suggest alternatives that may provide better results.

    They particularly favour an epidemilogical approach that takes driver conduct as a given and looks for other ways to control the frequency and severity of accidents. They examine the use of rewards to encourage good driving and the use of licensing to control the exposure of high-risk drivers. The deterrent effect of civil liability and the question of no-fault insurance are also considered, as are various methods used to control drinking and driving.

    The authors conclude by asking for greater evaluation of the interventions used. Traffic safety research, they argue, has barely begun to confront the central policy issue: how can society get the greatest payoff from the marginal dollar spent to prevent accidents?

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7917-7
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Martin Friedland, Michael Trebilcock and Kent Roach
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    We undertook this examination¹ of techniques of controlling traffic accidents as part of a larger study of sanctions and rewards in the legal system.² We thought that an understanding of what worked and did not work in the traffic area might give us insights into the regulation of conduct in other fields of law. Traffic accidents were a particularly appropriate focus, we thought, because of the good statistics that we assumed were available and because of the extensive research and other resources that had been and are devoted to the field. We were wrong. The statistics are not particularly good;...

  5. PART ONE: Driver-Centred Counter-measures

    • 1 Sanctions
      (pp. 25-64)

      Prosecutions are today the most prominent policy instrument used to reduce traffic accidents. Apart from Criminal Code prosecutions, there have been over a million convictions under the Highway Traffic Act each year in Ontario for the past ten years.⁸⁵ Traffic offences consume a large proportion of police and court resources. A recent British document estimated that road traffic offences occupied ‘between 50% and 70% of Magistrates’ court time’⁸⁶ The same may well be true for lower court judges in Canada.⁸⁷ This concentration of resources on prosecutions in the traffic area raises the question of whether they are effective in controlling...

    • 2 Civil Liability, Insurance, and Deterrence
      (pp. 65-75)

      One of the longest-standing legal sources of discouragement of driver error or wrong-doing is the threat of a tort action by an injured victim against the driver whose negligence caused the injury. Such actions remain available today to auto accident victims and are widely used, despite the emergence over time of many other traffic accident countermeasures, including public sanctions directed at delinquent drivers. In a tort action, if successful, the wrong-doer in theory stands liable for all losses sustained by the victim in the form of foregone future income, medical costs, and pain and suffering. In the event of the...

    • 3 Rewards
      (pp. 76-84)

      Anglo-American law has historically favoured punishment over rewards.³³⁵ No doubt most English monarchs agreed with Machiavelli that ‘it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of the two has to be wanting.’³³⁶ Bentham also took the view that if one had to choose one or the other, it is better to choose punishments than rewards. ‘By punishment alone,’ he wrote, ‘it seems not impossible but that the whole business of government might be carried on.’³³⁷ Note, however, that he added: ‘Though certainly not so well carried on as by a mixture of that and reward together.’³³⁸ In...

    • 4 Licensing
      (pp. 85-96)

      Licensing is a flexible form of administrative regulation that can be used to impose ‘a closer surveillance on conduct’³⁸¹ and to demand higher standards of conduct than obtained through the use of criminal or civil sanctions. Licensing techniques can be used in the traffic safety context to control the entry of drivers, to survey and record driving misconduct, and to control and sanction driving activity. Licensing, as a means both to control entry and to enforce exit in response to post-licensing behaviour, is related to the use of education to influence driver behaviour. Education, which will be discussed in the...

    • 5 Education
      (pp. 97-104)

      Education is a technique of social control which, unlike those examined above, does not explicitly rely on the imposition of sanctions and rewards but nevertheless is based on an assumption, common to sanctions and rewards, that the behaviour of individuals when driving is amenable to change in a manner that can reduce traffic accidents. Educative interventions can be used in many different phases of a traffic safety program and can target either a broad range of drivers or a high-risk subgroup. In general, evaluations of the effectiveness of educational strategies have not recorded impressive traffic safety improvements, and in some...

  6. PART TWO: Environment-Centred Counter-measures

    • 6 Economic Variables
      (pp. 107-113)

      Recent research has raised the controversial possibility that a significant percentage, indeed perhaps the overwhelming majority, of traffic accidents can be explained by factors outside the conventional causal matrix of driver error and motor vehicle, highway, and environmental design in the Haddon framework.

      General economic trends, operating through such variables as gas prices, unemployment, reduced rates of increase in real incomes, and perhaps the fleet mix, are argued to have a major effect on traffic accident figures. The worldwide oil crisis in 1973, the recession that followed, the recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the dramatic reductions...

    • 7 Motor Vehicle Safety Design
      (pp. 114-124)

      While safety concerns over particular features of motor vehicle design go back to the early decades of this century,⁴⁵³ detailed regulation of vehicle safety design is a relatively recent public counter-measure. Some observers date the public policy focus on vehicle design to the publication in 1965 of Ralph Nader’s book,Unsafe at Any Speed‚⁴⁵⁴ which purported to expose major safety hazards in the Chevrolet Corvair, and to the public outrage provoked by revelations that General Motors had retained private investigators to tail Nader and delve into his professional and personal life, which produced the needed political climate for regulating the...

    • 8 Highway Safety Design
      (pp. 125-135)

      The design of highway systems obviously entails a complex mix of objectives. Historically, traffic engineers have seen as their first priority designing highway features that produce and maintain a smooth flow of traffic so that highway systems can move as large a volume of traffic as possible as quickly as possible.⁴⁸² Over the last two decades or so, much more attention has been paid to safety features of highway design. This appears to parallel the increased focus on vehicle design and to reflect the influence of views such as those of Haddon,⁴⁸³ who maintained that historically public policy has been...

    • 9 Post-Accident Injury Care
      (pp. 136-142)

      The final step in traffic safety counter-measures occurs after every other step has failed: the vehicle design did not avoid, or insulate the occupant from the impact of, the crash; the road design did not accommodate the error; and the driver failed to avoid it. Yet, even at that point, there is still room for intervention as emergency care and rehabilitation may mitigate the consequences of the accident.⁵⁰⁵ There are two stages in post-crash care. The first deals with immediate emergency services. The second deals with long-term rehabilitation of disabled accident victims.

      The first and obvious point in emergency care...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 143-152)

    This survey of techniques for controlling traffic accidents reveals much greater inconclusiveness and uncertainty than we had expected to find when we embarked upon the study. We had hoped to be able to discover what interventions worked or did not work and be able to apply this knowledge to other areas of conduct where public policy experience has been less long-standing and intensive. Vast social resources have been devoted to various traffic safety measures and a formidable body of multidisciplinary research has developed. Despite this experience, very little can be said with confidence about the effectiveness of alternative counter-measures.


  8. NOTES
    (pp. 153-211)