NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Pounds that Kill: The External Costs of Vehicle Weight

Michael Anderson, Maximilian Auffhammer

NBER Working Paper No. 17170
Issued in June 2011
NBER Program(s):   EEE   PE

Heavier vehicles are safer for their own occupants but more hazardous for the occupants of other vehicles. In this paper we estimate the increased probability of fatalities from being hit by a heavier vehicle in a collision. We show that, controlling for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47% increase in the baseline fatality probability. Estimation results further suggest that the fatality risk is even higher if the striking vehicle is a light truck (SUV, pickup truck, or minivan). We calculate that the value of the external risk generated by the gain in fleet weight since 1989 is approximately 27 cents per gallon of gasoline. We further calculate that the total fatality externality is roughly equivalent to a gas tax of $1.08 per gallon. We consider two policy options for internalizing this external cost: a gas tax and an optimal weight varying mileage tax. Comparing these options, we find that the cost is similar for most vehicles.

download in pdf format
   (1220 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the November 2011 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

This paper is available as PDF (1220 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17170

Published: “Pounds Th at Kill: Th e External Costs of Vehicle Weight.” Joint with Max Au ff hammer, UC Berkeley. 2014. Review of Economic Studies . 81(2): pp. 535-571.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Aguiar, Hurst, and Karabarbounis w17259 Time Use During Recessions
Rajan and Zingales w9478 The Emergence of Strong Property Rights: Speculation from history
Finkelstein, Taubman, Wright, Bernstein, Gruber, Newhouse, Allen, Baicker, and Study Group w17190 The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment: Evidence from the First Year
Abramitzky and Lavy w17093 How Responsive is Investment in Schooling to Changes in Redistribution Policies and in Returns
Frankel w17239 Over-optimism in Forecasts by Official Budget Agencies and Its Implications
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us