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Safety for whom? The effects of light trucks on traffic fatalities

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Light trucks have doubled their share of the vehicle fleet from 1980 to 2004. This paper examines the effects of this increase on traffic safety, combining estimates from a state-level panel data set with an accident-level micro-data set. The results suggest that a one-percentage point increase in light truck share raises annual traffic fatalities by 0.34%, or 143 deaths per year. Of this increase, approximately one-fifth accrue to the light trucks' own occupants, and the remaining four-fifths accrue to the occupants of other vehicles and pedestrians. Using standard value of life figures, the implied Pigovian tax is approximately 3850 dollars per light truck sold. Overall, light trucks pose a significant hazard to other users of the highway system but on average provide no additional protection to their own occupants.

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