AltInst: Effects-Based Government Regulation of Automotive Safety

From: Nicholas Albery <>
Date: Wed Jun 07 2000 - 11:16:57 PDT

I would be interested to encourage a debate on AltInst as to what the snags
and advantages of the proposal below to the Global Ideas Bank by Dale Gibby
might be.

With best wishes, Nicholas Albery <>
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Effects-Based Government Regulation of Automotive Safety
Dale Gibby
Adapted from an e-mail to the Global Ideas Bank.
Based on my experiences working in the field of automotive safety, I suggest
that an effects-based system of regulation. Rather than the government
micro-managing the industry, they should merely collect statistics on
accidents and impose a financial penalty based on those statistics.
This money is not given to the victims or their families, it is a penalty
imposed by all of society for the risk associated with the product, and is
paid to society. The money either enters the general tax fund or is taken
out of circulation.
This concept is not to be confused with the concept of liability. This would
be regulation of an industry, involving the government and the manufacturer.
For example, a linear penalty system would assign a certain monetary amount
to each person killed or crippled in or by that manufacturer¹s products. A
step system would assign a certain monetary amount to each person over the
first 500 killed or crippled. A weighted system would assign less of a
penalty per person if the total number is smaller, thus penalising the worst
companies at a higher rate.
In the event that the producers choose to disregard the penalties and
continue to make unsafe cars, this would indicate that the penalties need to
be adjusted upward.
Regardless of the system, the concept is clear and simple: Measure the risk
imposed on society. Use this measurement to impose a penalty on the
producer. Adjust the penalties progressively upwards as technology dictates.
Governments of technologically advanced nations regulate the automotive
industry to promote the safety of their citizens. Governments must regulate
safety because automotive companies have a financial incentive to cut
corners, sacrificing safety for profits. However, society pays a high price
for current methods of regulation have a large price to society.
Current regulations produce a proliferation of bureaucracy, paperwork,
government agencies and documentation. Each aspect of the vehicle, from
headlamp aim to strength of seatbacks, is explicitly spelled out in legal
documents. All of the people who write, read, interpret and implement these
papers could produce safer cars if they concentrated on safety engineering,
rather than paperwork.
Current regulations stifle creative thinking by eliminating possible
alternatives. Because regulations are so specific, other alternatives become
illegal, even if they are an improvement from a safety point of view.
Current regulations stifle technological advancement by increasing the costs
of introducing a new design. Each new design must pass a large number of
expensive and time-consuming tests. Therefore, car companies do not
introduce newer and better designs as often as they otherwise would.
Current regulations give companies an Œacceptable minimum safety level¹.
That is, the car companies are satisfied that the car is Œsafe enough¹ when
it can pass the regulations.
The better system I propose provides an incentive to improve safety,
regardless of how safe or unsafe the current products are. It is much
simpler and less expensive to implement.
Dale Gibby, 880 Tobin Dr. #102. Inkster, MI 48141, USA (e-mail:
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Received on Wed Jun 7 11:35:26 2000

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