New Study Indicates Federal Fuel Economy Standards Even Deadlier Than Previously Thought

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Jody Clarke, 202.331.2252


Washington, D.C., October 15, 2003—A study released yesterday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that its fuel economy program (CAFE) is even deadlier than previously estimated.  In 2001, a National Academy of Sciences panel concluded that CAFE contributes to between 1,300 to 2,600 traffic deaths per year, by restricting the production of large cars.  NHTSA’s newest study, however, finds that the effect of this downsizing on safety is “substantially larger” than previously thought.


The NHTSA press release accompanying the study makes no mention of its implications for CAFE, but instead spins it as containing more findings on the alleged rollover hazards of SUVs.  In fact, the study confirms previous findings that SUVs are more crashworthy than passenger cars, and that minicars are the most dangerous class of vehicle.  NHTSA’s refusal to confront CAFE’s lethal effects has been the basis for a series of lawsuits filed against the agency by CEI.


“NHTSA should be ashamed of once again ducking the CAFE/safety issue in order to continue its attacks on SUVs.  As for rollovers, the far more important issue is overall safety—on that basis, the agency ought to be singling out minicars for concern.  That, however, would require putting safety before political correctness—something this agency seems to be incapable of doing,” says Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel and fuel economy standards expert. 


CEI has been critical of the federal government’s corporate average fuel economy program, known as CAFE, for almost two decades.  In 1992, CEI won a federal appeals court ruling that NHTSA had illegally ignored the lethal effects of the program. 


To obtain the NHTSA study, click here.  CAFE-related information is also available in the “CAFE Cafe” on CEI’s website at