Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
The Dec. 13 news story about the Department of Transportation's proposal to raise fuel economy standards omitted a major point: Downsizing vehicles to meet corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards reduces their crashworthiness.
According to a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report, CAFE-induced downsizing contributes to 1,300 to 2,600 vehicle deaths a year. Any move to make CAFE standards even more stringent probably would raise this death toll.
Advocates of higher CAFE standards for sport utility vehicles argue that this would reduce the hazard that SUVs pose in collisions with cars. The evidence for this is far from clear, because assessing the overall safety effects of reducing one vehicle's mass in a multi-car collision is complex. But in single-vehicle accidents, small SUVs are much less safe than large ones. A higher CAFE standard for SUVs would encourage sales of small SUVs.
The Transportation Department skirts this issue in its proposal, but that shouldn't be surprising. A decade ago the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the department, arguing that it had illegally ignored CAFE standards' lethal effects. A federal court agreed, finding that the department's approach was based on "lame claims," "statistical legerdemain" and "bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo." Now the department is doing it again. Even regulatory history, it seems, repeats itself.