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Speeding, Punishment, and Recidivism: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

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This paper estimates the effects of temporary driver’s license suspensions on driving behavior. A little-known rule in the German traffic penalty schedule maintains that drivers who commit a series of speeding offenses within 365 days should have their licenses suspended for 1 month. My regression discontinuity design exploits the quasi-random assignment of license suspensions caused by the 365-day cutoff and shows that 1-month license suspensions lower the probability of recidivating within a year by 20 percent. This is largely a specific-deterrence effect driven by the punishment itself and not by incapacitation, information asymmetries, or the threat of stiffer future penalties.

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