Raising SUV Fuel Economy Standards Would Mean More Traffic Fatalities

Effort to Save Fuel Linked to 46,000 Auto Deaths Since 1975

Recent efforts to raise fuel efficiency standards, including those for light trucks like sports utility vehicles and mini-vans, would increase traffic fatalities, according to a new paper released by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

Ever since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law was passed in 1975, the size and weight of American cars has been dropping. Passed in the wake of the Mid-East oil embargo as a means of forcing the auto industry to increase auto fuel efficiency, the CAFE law mandates that automakers produce cars achieving an average of at least 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and produce light trucks achieving an average of 20.7 mpg.

But according a new paper released by The National Center for Public Policy Research, “Raising Sports Utility Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Standards Would Kill,” greater fuel economy has come at a high price ­ human lives. The paper notes that for every 100 pounds cut from the average car weight, 302 additional people die in automobile accidents. Between 1975 and 1983 alone, the average car weight dropped by more than 1,000 pounds. A recent analysis of government data indicates that 46,000 Americans have died in car accidents since 1975 that they would have survived if only they had been in larger cars.

“The more metal a car has to absorb the force of a crash, the less force people inside the car will have to absorb. It’s as simple as that,” said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. “We have to decide which is more important to us: Fuel economy of the lives or our loved-ones.”

Environmentalists have been pressing for higher fuel economy standards for light trucks, including popular sports utility vehicles, arguing that since these vehicles are used like passenger cars they ought to be regulated as such.

Ironically, SUVs owe much of their popularity to the CAFE law. The law all but drove the family station wagon into extinction, leaving many Americans searching for an alternative. The alternative turned out to be the SUV. SUVs have a distinct advantage over station wagons because the are classified as trucks and thus subject to the less stringent 20.7 mpg standard, allowing them to be larger and safer.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation based in Washington, D.C. A copy of the paper is available on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA256.html. To arrange an interview, contact David Ridenour at (202) 507-6398 ext. 109 or by e-mail at [email protected].

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.