President Obama unveiled Tuesday a plan to sharply increase federal gas mileage rules for vehicles sold in the United States, eventually bringing the requirement up to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, these rules – known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards – have the deadly effect of causing new cars to be lighter, smaller and less crashworthy.
CAFE is among the deadliest government regulations we have, and with today’s announcement it’s going to get even deadlier. It kills consumers by reducing vehicle size, and now it may well kill car companies by forcing them to produce cars that consumers don’t want. The only redeeming aspect of the President’s announcement is that there’ll be only one standard imposed on the industry, rather both national and California standards. But that just means carmakers will have one noose around their necks instead of two.
A 2002 National Research Council study found that the federal CAFE standards contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their restrictions on car size and weight. An increase in the severity of the rules will only raise that death toll. Shockingly, the federal agency tasked with making Americans safer on the road – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – has refused to acknowledge this fact, even after being overturned by a federal court for ignoring the issue.