E-ZPass Is a Life-Saver (Literally)

Among its many perks, there’s now evidence that E-ZPass may help save babies. Janet Currie and Reed Walker utilize the introduction of E-ZPass to examine the health effects of traffic congestion on infants. The authors “compare infants born to mothers living near toll plazas to infants born to mothers living near busy roadways but away from toll plazas with the idea that mothers living away from toll plazas did not experience significant reductions in local traffic congestion. [They] also examine differences in the health of infants born to the same mother, but who differ in terms of whether or not they were ‘exposed’ to E-ZPass.” Currie and Walker find that “reductions in traffic congestion generated by E-ZPass reduced the incidence of prematurity and low birth weight among mothers within 2km of a toll plaza by 6.7-9.1% and 8.5-11.3% respectively, with larger effects for African-Americans, smokers, and those very close to toll plazas.” (HT: Chris Blattman) [%comments]


Maybe toll plazas should be done away with then? Instead of painting EZ-pass in a good light, this could be turned to show that toll booths are health hazards. Another study is in order.

David L

Steve, try reading the blurb again.

David L

I wonder if they controlled for time spent sitting in traffic by the expecting mother. Personally I find traffic extremely stressful, and all sorts of studies have linked prenatal stress to bad outcomes. You would expect those who live near toll plazas to spend less time sitting in traffic on average than those who don't...

Jan K

Be nice if there was some consistency to the location of the EZ Pass and Cash lanes at toll plazas.

Under the current system, vehicles race up to the plaza, then quickly (and dangerously) cross lanes left and right for an appropriate, open lane.

Why not EZ Pass on the left, Cash on the right, and combos or closed lanes in the middle?

Now that would help cut down accidents.


D'oh. Thanks David, I did miss that. But it should still stand to reason that if a negative correlation to traffic congestion exists than a reduction in traffic congestion would be beneficial to the expectant mothers. waiting for tolls definitely stresses me out.


Isn't EZ-Pass a sign of higher socioeconomic status? Wouldn't those mothers have better access to health care and other healthy habits during pregnancy?


I love how the conclusion is that EZ passes save lives instead of car exhaust hurting them. Because truly, without car exhaust, EZ pass would do nothing.

Eric M. Jones

Have they looked at rates not on a busy highway too? I can think of a hundred ways that this could happen, but where is the article? Have they looked at asbestos (from brake linings) CO, CO2, diesel particulates?

Toll plazas are one of the things I hope become extinct.


In my college years I rapidly reached the conclusion that markets did not produced the best outcomes when I realized that young families who had yet to accumulate money would purchase the cheapest housing which would be located in the least healthy locations by highways at the very point when the need to protect the health of young children was greatest,


Correlation does not necessarily imply causation??