NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving

Benjamin Hansen

NBER Working Paper No. 20243
Issued in June 2014
NBER Program(s):   HE   LE   PE

Traditional economic models of criminal behavior have straightforward predictions: raising the expected cost of crime via apprehension probabilities or punishments decreases crime. I test the effect of harsher punishments on deterring driving under the influence (DUI). In this setting, punishments are determined by strict rules on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and previous offenses. Regression discontinuity derived estimates suggest that having a BAC above the DUI threshold reduces recidivism by up to 2 percentage points (17 percent). Likewise having a BAC over the aggravated DUI threshold reduces recidivism by an additional percentage point (9 percent). The results suggest that recent recommendations to lower the BAC limit to .05 would save relatively few lives, while increasing marginal punishments and sanctions monotonically along the BAC distribution would more effectively deter the drunk drivers most likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20243

Published: Benjamin Hansen, 2015. "Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1581-1617, April. citation courtesy of

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