First Step in Fuel Economy Reform Should Be Assessing CAFE’s Lethal Effect

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Richard Morrison, 202.331.2273

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Washington, D.C., July 19, 2005—The federal government is about to propose a major reform of its fuel economy standards. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, there should be no change in the program until the agency that runs it, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fully analyzes the program’s lethal effect on traffic safety.


There is clear evidence that the program, known as CAFE (for corporate average fuel economy) has increased traffic deaths by restricting the production of larger, more crashworthy vehicles. A 2001 National Academy of Sciences’ report found that this downsizing had contributed to approximately 2,000 traffic deaths per year. In 1992, in a case brought by CEI and Consumer Alert, a federal appeals court found that NHTSA had illegally concealed this issue from public debate.


“Given that CAFE has been in effect for over a quarter century, its cumulative impact may well make it the government’s single most deadly regulatory program,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “Until NHTSA candidly assesses this impact, it has no business engaging in any type of CAFE reform.”


In CEI’s view, the agency’s current approach to reform would vastly increase CAFE’s complexity, encouraging gaming between various vehicle categories. The real purposes of reform should be to reduce CAFE’s deadly effects, increase consumer choice and design flexibility, and minimize the risk of new technologies introduced under government pressure. But any reform is premature until the lethal impacts of the current program are fully assessed.

Read more about CAFE’s deadly effects on CEI’s website.


CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.