CAFE Standards Kill: Congress' Regulatory Solution to Foreign Oil Dependence Comes at a Steep Price
Despite the new regulatory "reform," high gas prices have lawmakers in Washington debating, once again,8 whether to impose even steeper CAFE standards. For instance, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed burdensome across-the-board legislation to increase CAFE standards to 35 mpg on both light trucks and cars by model year 2017.9 Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have also recently called for CAFE increases.10
But such increases have unintended safety consequences for the safety of drivers and passengers. The reason is because carmakers build lighter and smaller cars that burn less fuel to comply with CAFE standards.11 The trade-off is these lighter, smaller cars fare much worse in violent crashes, resulting in greater rates of death and injury for occupants.
An extensive 1999 USA Today analysis of crash data found that since CAFE went into effect in 1978, 46,000 people died in crashes they otherwise would have survived, had they been in bigger, heavier vehicles. This, according to a 1999 USA Today analysis of crash data since 1975, roughly figures to be 7,700 deaths for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards.14