1. Bae: Assistant Professor, Department of Economics and Management, Hood College, 401 Rosemont Avenue, Frederick, MD 21701. Phone 1-301-696-3692, Fax 1-301-696-3771, E-mail
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    1. Benítez-Silva: Associate Professor, Department of Economics and New York Center for Computational Science, SUNY-Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794. Phone 1-631-632-7551, Fax 1-631-632-7516, E-mail
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    • We are grateful to John Hause, Chris Swann, Chris Snyder, Sam Peltzman, Ioana Marinescu, Adam Copeland, Katja Seim, Selcuk Eren, Na Yin, Huan Ni, Caroline Austin, an anonymous referee, and the editor for their useful comments and suggestions. We also thank the participants of the Annual International Industrial Organization Conference held in Chicago, and the applied micro workshops at Florida State University, Drexel University, Cornell, Hood College, University of St. Gallen, and the IAE in Barcelona. H.B.-S. is also grateful to the Economics Departments at the University of Maryland and UPF for their hospitality during the completion of this paper. We bear sole responsibility for any remaining errors.


The number of automobile recalls in the United States has substantially increased over the last two decades, and after a record of over 30 million cars recalled in 2004, in the last few years it has consistently reached between 15 and 17 million, and in 2010 alone 20 million cars were recalled. Toyota's recall crisis in 2010 illustrates how recalls can affect a large number of American drivers and the defects connected to them can result in loss of life and serious accidents. However, in spite of the increase in public concern over recalls and the loss of property and life attached to them, there is no empirical evidence of the effect of vehicle recalls on safety. This paper investigates whether vehicle recalls reduce accidental harm measured by the severity of injuries in vehicle accidents. The results of our analysis show that if a recall for a new-year model is issued, then the severity of injuries of accidents continuously diminishes during the first year after the recall, something we do not find among cars not subject to recalls. This is because defects are repaired over time but also because drivers react by driving more carefully until the defects are fixed. To minimize the losses attached to having dangerously defective cars on our roads, both quick and timely recall issuance are needed and more detailed information on defects should be delivered to owners of defective vehicles. The latter can be made possible through simple but important policy changes by the U.S. government regarding recall information sharing with drivers and insurance companies. (JEL L51, L62)