NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do Traffic Tickets Save Lives?

August 14, 2003

Traffic tickets do save some lives, says a new study in the medical journal the Lancet. In his study, Donald Redelmeier of the University of Toronto examined a drivers' chances of a fatal collision before and after getting a traffic ticket and drew the following conclusions:

  • The risk of a fatal crash in the month after a conviction was about 35 percent lower than in a comparable month with no conviction for the same driver.
  • The benefit lessened substantially by 2 months and was not significant by 3-4 months.
  • Every 80,000 tickets issued means one less fatal collision.
  • Thus, inconsistent enforcement might contribute to thousands of deaths every year worldwide.

The threat of getting a ticket is usually not enough to encourage drivers to change their habits, says Redelmeier. Social pressure, not necessarily increased law enforcement, is needed to curb dangerous driving patterns.

According to Redelmeier, drunk driving rates have declined in the past decade not because of tougher laws but because groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have helped change attitudes about drunk driving, making it more socially unacceptable.

Source: Laura Beil, "Traffic tickets linked to saved lives," Dallas Morning News, July 7, 2003; Donald Redelmeier and colleagues, "Traffic report: Increasing the frequency of traffic enforcement might further reduce total deaths," Volume 361, Number 9376, June 28, 2003, Lancet.


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