Pounds That Kill: The External Costs Of Vehicle Weight
Heavier vehicles are safer for their own occupants but more hazardous for the occupants of other vehicles. In this paper, the authors estimate the increased probability of fatalities from being hit by a heavier vehicle in a collision. They show that, controlling for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47% increase in the baseline fatality probability. Estimation results further suggest that the fatality risk is even higher if the striking vehicle is a light truck (SUV, pickup truck, or minivan). They calculate that the value of the external risk generated by the gain in fleet weight since 1989 is approximately 27 cents per gallon of gasoline.