Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Heckle and Chide: Results of a Randomized Road Safety Intervention in Kenya

James Habyarimana, William Jack

April 2009

Center for Global Development


In economies with weak enforcement of traffic regulations, drivers who adopt excessively risky behavior impose externalities on other vehicles, and on their own passengers. In light of the difficulties of correcting inter-vehicle externalities associated with weak third-party enforcement, this paper evaluates an intervention that aims instead to correct the intra-vehicle externality between a driver and his passengers, who face a collective action problem when deciding whether to exert social pressure on the driver if their safety is compromised. We report the results of a field experiment aimed at solving this collective action problem, which empowers passengers to take action. Evocative messages encouraging passengers to speak up were placed inside a random sample of over 1,000 long-distance Kenyan minibuses, or matatus, serving both as a focal point for, and to reduce the cost of, passenger action. Independent insurance claims data were collected for the treatment group and a control group before and after the intervention. Our results indicate that insurance claims fell by a half to two-thirds, from an annual rate of about 10 percent without the intervention, and that claims involving injury or death fell by at least 50 percent. Results of a driver survey eight months into the intervention suggest passenger heckling was a contributing factor to the improvement in safety.