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Wow. Push that in the face of those who say that cyclists don't pay for the roads.

On a related note: when will NHTSA start rating cars for pedestrian safety? They do it in Europe. The new BMW i3 has an outer shell of rubbery plastic to adsorb impacts and is safer for pedestrians.

Once you start rating for ped safety, the lawyers will follow with a higher risk of lawsuit for the most dangerous cars, then the insurers will follow.

Also interesting that distracted driving is only just behind drunk driving as the leading cause. Yet, our laws against drunk driving are far tougher.

We've been fighting drunk driving a lot longer. We've only be fighting distracted driving since the dawn of the smart phone.

The idea that humans tend to make rational choices or otherwise maximize utility survives only as an item of belief among primitive peoples.

@SJE
I caught a Money Market podcast a few months ago where they were discussing the changes a manufacturer had to make to their cars for the European vs US car market.

Two items stood out;
1) As you said, European regulations required softer rounder outer body components for pedestrian/cyclist safety. US did not.

2) US regulations required a larger driver airbag then they do in Europe. In Europe the assumption is that the driver is belted in thus a smaller airbag is fine.

When setting the rates for a particular vehicle model actuaries look at the entire claims history against that car. So any pedestrian / cyclist involved claims should be accounted for.

That said, given the probably overwhelming number of claims arising from cars crashing into each other or just all by themselves I don't see pedestrian /cyclist claims influencing the premium much.

Still, interesting idea that the US should start testing vehicles for pedestrian safety and working with manufacturers to enhance it.

Can't forget that in addition to the insurance premiums drivers also have to come up with money out of pocket to cover their deductibles.

So that amount, whatever it is, has to be added onto the $100 billion. Still I'm certain there is a large external cost to society to allow driving to remain inexpensive.


Smedley - it works about as well for predicting most economic behavior at the micro level as any other. We raised metro fares, fewer people took metro. We make it easier to bike, more people bike. gas prices go up, more people buy high MPG cars. I think its pretty likely that if we internatlized the costs of accidents more, people would drive more carefully or pick safer cars. Doesnt mean that the market creates the best of all possible worlds, or other theological statements.

@jeffb: it's currently extremely difficult for the estates of cyclists and pedestrians to recover damages (the "he jumped in front of me" excuse seems fairly iron-clad), so no, those costs aren't really reflected in current insurance premiums.

The only real solution to the carnage is self-driving cars. I've pretty much given up on the idea that people can avoid acting like selfish jerks when driving.

@Mike: Like you, I've given up on the idea that people won't be selfish jerks when driving. But while I don't doubt that there may some day be *some* self-driving cars on the roads, *all* cars on the roads in the U.S. being self-driven will be a reality at about the same time as the NRA types decide that guns really do kill people. I don't think we'll ever have roads free of unsafe jerks in this country.

A Cyclist, of course you're right in many cases at many levels. Clearly, making costs explicit helps straighten out behavior. However, driving seems to be an area rife with emotional decision making and, being an emotional type myself, I like making extreme and provocative statements on the internet because it's frowned upon at work and at home.

Also, I'm going to put my self-driving car into the "selfish jerk" mode (available in the premium package) so that I can get where I'm going faster.

@Mike
it's currently extremely difficult for the estates of cyclists and pedestrians to recover damages (the "he jumped in front of me" excuse seems fairly iron-clad), so no, those costs aren't really reflected in current insurance premiums.

Good point. And I'm a cyclist who unfortunately knows that first hand. Not the estate part just that it's difficult to recover damages in a auto/cyclist collision.

re economic arguments: I agree that its not possible to fully externalize and efficiently account for all costs in all cases. For cars and accidents, it should be pretty easy as a matter of policy. Its only the politics that are hard.

Smedley

I tend to get very emotional, very angry, at arguments that strike me as illogical and unsupportable, esp when they are provacative and extreme ;)

Note, of course the fact that a decision is emotional does not mean that it won't be impacted at the margin by prices and costs. People fall in love with cars yes - but also with houses, yet price matters immensely. With jobs, yet wages impact what jobs people will take. Hell, there is evidence from Gary Becker et al , IIRC that economics impacts marriage decicions, and of course Durkheim invented sociology by showing the impact of booms and busts on the suicide rate.

Also, I'm going to put my self-driving car into the "selfish jerk" mode (available in the premium package) so that I can get where I'm going faster.

I'm going to have to settle for the more modestly-priced "I don't get there any faster but nobody else gets there faster than me" mode.

@SJE: under the Bush administration, NHTSA ruled that pedestrian crash compatibility was not important -- and soon thereafter, millions of high-and-rigid SUVs flooded onto American roads. However, since 2009 NHTSA has been considering harmonizing its rules with the EU pedestrian safety rules, which have been in place for a decade now.

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/48/10/3

Payton: I agree. Of course, you don't need to control dangerous cars entirely through regulations, because you can use torts and taxes. Europeans drive smaller and safer cars partly because of regs, but largely because they pay 2-4x US fuel costs. If gas was $10/gallon, you would see many fewer big cars.

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