Do Safety Inspections Improve Safety? Evidence from the U.S. Roadside Inspection Program for Commercial Vehicles

Regulatory efforts to reduce public hazards could be undermined when agents respond strategically to enforcement. This paper evaluates the North American Standard Inspection Program, a national safety regulation for commercial vehicles. I quantify changes in road safety from the program over the past two decades, analyze the causes of those changes, and suggest ways to improve the regulatory design to enhance public safety. I compile a comprehensive database on inspections and accidents involving all 23 million trucks inspected nationwide from 1996 to 2018. Linking inspection and crash history using each truck’s unique vehicle identification number, I implement an event study that tracks a given truck’s accident rate shortly before and after inspection. I find a sharp, 44.6% increase in the accident rate immediately following an inspection; the effect lasts for at least 14 days. Further analysis points to an explanation consistent with the Becker (1968) model: because inspectors rarely conduct repeat inspections of recently checked trucks, the drivers of these trucks then drive more recklessly and undertake fewer safety checks, leading to more accidents following an inspection. The drivers’ compensating behaviors lead to an estimated 1,803 additional accidents per year, costing roughly $1.6 billion. A comparison of different regulatory designs across states shows that alternative policy designs that randomize inspection practices and schedules could reduce accident rates.


I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. My areas of specialization are environmental, transportation, urban economics, and biodiversity. My research focuses on advancing understanding of the impacts of regulatory enforcement and compliance, and of market imperfections in both U.S. and China settings. Before coming to Cornell, I completed my MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I am also a HKUST alumnus! I received my BSc in Economics and Finance, with minor in Mathematics from HKUST in 2014.

Speaker(s) Ms Yuanning LIANG
Ph.D. Candidate, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
Date 12 Jan 2021 (Tuesday)
Time 11:00 am

By zoom at the link:
Meeting ID: 964 3970 4243 Passcode: 783801


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