Are back-seat drivers creating safer roads in Kenya?

Anyone who’s ever ridden in a matatu in Kenya knows why traffic accidents are responsible for twice as many deaths in that country per year as malaria. While the drivers of these shared vans understandably want to collect as many fares as possible, this often leads them to zip around town utterly heedless of pedestrians or other cars. Traffic accidents involving matatus make up a full one-fifth of all crashes in Kenya.

But two economists think they’ve found a simple solution to this problem: encouraging passengers to become “back-seat drivers.” The economists, James Habyarimana and Billy Jack, recently performed an experiment in which posters were placed in random matatus which asked the passengers to “heckle or chide” the driver if he was driving too recklessly. After a twelve-month experiment, the economists found that those vans with the posters were only one-quarter as likely to be involved in a traffic accident as those without.

[via Chris Blattman]