Proposed Fuel Economy Rules Threaten Lives

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2003 – The Competitive Enterprise Institute is filing comments with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging the agency not to increase fuel economy standards on light trucks, which includes sport utility vehicles, because the current federal standards have already proven deadly.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


The agency’s administrator, Jeffrey Runge, who recently raised questions about the safety of SUVs, is also testifying today before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on SUV safety. 


“When it comes to safety, NHTSA's head is making SUVs into Scapegoat Utility Vehicles,” says Sam Kazman, CEI’s general counsel and fuel economy expert.  “He ignores the fact that, overall, SUVs are practically equivalent to cars in terms of occupant death rates, while politically correct minicars may be the most unsafe vehicles around.”


The federal fuel economy program, known as CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy), was originally introduced in 1975. While it has had no clear impact on overall gasoline consumption, it has forced carmakers to restrict their sales of larger cars and to downsize other models.  Since larger cars are more crashworthy than smaller cars in practically every collision mode, the result is more highway deaths.


“A 2001 study by the National Academy of Sciences made it clear that CAFE kills.  This latest NHTSA proposal will make that regulation even deadlier,” says Kazman.  “No matter what new technologies are developed, there will always be a trade-off between fuel economy and safety.”

In 1992 CEI won a federal appeals court ruling that the U.S. Transportation Department, of which NHTSA is a part, had illegally ignored CAFE’s deadly effects, which have been estimated to cause between 1,300 to 2,600 deaths a year.  CEI’s comments, and more information about CAFE, are available online.

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.  For more information about CEI, please visit our website at