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A widely cited USA Today analysis of 2006 statistics shows that traffic fatalities were down significantly in sixteen states. Obviously that’s good news. The causes of reduced fatalities raise some interesting cost-benefit questions. Some measures – public relations campaigns to reduce aggressive driving – are not controversial. Other means to reduce car accidents force the public to think about how much freedom, even freedom to break the law, they are willing to give up to lower highway fatalities. Seat belt laws are known to reduce serious automobile crash injuries. So do laws and enforcement campaigns targeting speeding, driving under the influence, and aggressive roadway behavior. All of those campaigns mean more police on the roads and more chances for the average citizen to get pulled over if he doesn’t like seatbelts, drives 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, or had that 3rd drink with dinner. I’m not suggesting that aggressive policing of the roads is anything but a plus, but some readers may feel differently when they’re asked to pull out their license and registration.

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