Estimating the impact of the Penalty Point System on road fatalities in Spain

Traffic accidents are a major public health concern since they are the leading cause of death for those aged 15–29 years and the ninth cause of death worldwide. In this paper, we estimate the overall effect on traffic fatalities of the introduction of the Penalty Point System (PPS) in Spain in 2006, jointly with those of the publicity campaigns that went with it and the reform of the Penal Code to toughen the consequences of traffic offenses in 2007. We use a synthetic-control method that controls for differences in the distribution of control variables, changing business cycles conditions, the effect of unexpected policies or events that happen between the pre- and the post-PPS periods and the arbitrariness in the selection of the control group. We find that the introduction of the PPS and related initiatives lead to a reduction of almost 15% in traffic fatality rates in Spain during the first two years. The magnitude of the estimated effect monotonically increased over time until reaching a 40% reduction in fatality rates in 2009 and 2010.