Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2014

Abstract

Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved by vehicle safety standards. For many years, the auto industry fought the adoption of even the most basic standards tooth and nail, arguing that driver responsibility was the key to preventing auto accidents. In doing so, vehicle manufacturers "reinforceled] certain common sense ideas about traffic safety"-that drivers were responsible for car accidents and that vehicle design could not do much to make serious crashes survivable-"and suppressled] others." Auto insurers-who bear much of the economic cost of car crashes through a combination of first party and liability insurance-initially joined auto manufacturers in pushing driver education and traffic safety laws over vehicle design standards. Eventually, however, injury epidemiologists convinced the insurers that improved vehicle design promised greater safety gains and cost savings and thus drove a wedge between insurers and manufacturers. Ultimately, the auto insurance industry played a crucial role in turning the tide against motor vehicle injuries by funding research to develop vehicle safety standards and lobbying to make them law. Third- party payers have powerful incentives to reduce the costs associated with illness, injury, and property damage. They also have powerful influence on policymakers with regard to the law and policy strategies adopted for reducing those costs.

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