The limits of laws: traffic law enforcement in South Africa

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP08/2019 (revised, version: 2)
 
Publication date: May 2019
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
 
Abstract:

The aim of many public policies is to change behaviour. Governments tend to rely on regulations, taxes and subsidies to effect such change. These measures, which affect agents' economic incentives, have a mixed record. A key insight of the New Institutional Economics is that the efficacy of such formal institutions depends on the strength of their enforcement and the extent to which they are compatible with prevailing informal institutions. This paper uses the road safety situation in South Africa as a case study to explore aspects of the relationships among formal institutions, law enforcement and informal institutions. South Africa has a strong suite of road safety laws but poor road safety outcomes. The paper argues that improved law enforcement cannot fully solve the problem; complementary changes to the informal institutions shaping the behaviour of road-users are essential. It points out that institutional economists have to take a greater interest in the insights of research in behavioural economics, behavioural and cognitive science and other disciplines in order to provide useful advice in settings where such change is an important policy objective.

 
JEL Classification:

B52, D02, D04, D73, K42, L91, L98

Keywords:

Traffic laws, formal institutions, law enforcement, informal institutions, South Africa

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BER Weekly

27 September 2021
Besides the escalating woes at leading Chinese property group Evergrande, global and domestic financial markets were focused on a slew of central bank policy meetings last week. ...

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