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Rules May Save Fuel but Won't Save Lives

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Rules May Save Fuel but Won't Save Lives

Kazman Op Ed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When it comes to saving fuel, federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations are expensive, cumbersome and insidiously deadly. They force new technologies into production on short notice. As a result, new vehicle prices increase, leading more people to hold on to their older, less fuel-efficient models. While the new technologies in these vehicles may seem innovative, they can also turn out to be unreliable, sometimes dangerously so. Dig into the Ford-Firestone fiasco and you'll find that this defectively designed tire stemmed from a push for better mileage.Worst of all, CAFE kills people. It causes vehicles to be downsized, since lighter, smaller models use less fuel. But since smaller cars are less crashworthy than similarly equipped large ones, the result is higher traffic deaths. According to the National Academy of Sciences' 2001 CAFE study, this downsizing contributes to between 1,000 and 3,000 additional fatalities per year. That's an astounding toll for a program that has been in effect for more than two decades, and yet it's also something that few people know about. According to a poll we conducted last year, once people learn of the CAFE safety issue, their support for higher standards plummets.The most recent CAFE standard to be boosted is the one for light trucks, a category that includes sport utility vehicles. SUVs are despised by such environmentalist celebrities as Arianna Huffington and Robert Kennedy Jr., who live in mansions and jet-set around the country advising the rest of us on how to save fuel.Advocates of higher CAFE standards for SUVs claim that this would save lives by reducing the alleged SUV threat to small cars. That's highly questionable; if SUVs really posed a significant new danger, then the SUV boom should have led to an increase in the rate of multivehicle accident deaths. In fact, that hasn't happened. But a higher CAFE standard will push people away from the largest, most crashworthy SUVs into less crashworthy small models. The result will be less safety, not more.But don't count on either CAFE's proponents or the Department of Transportation to tell you that. They never admitted that passenger car CAFE standards killed anyone, and now they're repeating that ploy for SUVs.When new technologies have to be forced on us by law, you can bet there's something fishy about them. Just remember to buckle up before you take that bet.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />