Two Groups Sue Transportation Department over Fuel Economy Standards

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The text of the petition is available in pdf format.


<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Washington, D.C., May 29, 2003—The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Consumer Alert today filed suit challenging the more stringent fuel economy standards issued recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for light trucks and SUVs. The groups will argue that NHTSA failed to adequately consider the impact of its new standards on traffic safety. 


The new standards, issued on March 31, will take effect beginning with the 2005 model year.  NHTSA claims the new standards will not lead to vehicle downsizing, but CEI and Consumer Alert contend that the agency is ignoring the fact that higher fuel economy standards inevitably restrict vehicle size. Because larger SUV models have better safety records than smaller ones, a downsizing effect would result in more traffic deaths.


The CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) program was originally introduced in 1975. In 2001, a National Academy of Sciences report found that CAFE’s downsizing effect on passenger cars may be responsible for approximately 2,000 deaths a year. 


“Once again, NHTSA has increased a CAFE standard with absolutely no recognition of its lethal impact on safety,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “NHTSA has taken this head-in-the-sand approach for over a decade, despite adverse court findings and despite the National Academy of Sciences’ own conclusion that CAFE kills. Despite the fact that its middle name is safety, NHTSA’s real concern seems to be protecting its bureaucratic image rather than the public.”


In 1992 CEI won a federal appeals court ruling that the U.S. Transportation Department had illegally ignored CAFE’s deadly effects. More information and background can be found at




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