August 5, 1997
o you think environmentalists are making the world a safer place for us all? Its a widely held notion, but when it comes to the issue of fuel economy, nothing could be further from the truth. The federal government in the 1970s adopted Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards in an attempt to save oil. In time the rationale for the standards was changedthey now supposedly exist to preserve the environment.
But forcing automakers to manufacture cars with better gas mileage hasnt had much impact on emissions. There has been an impact, however, on traffic deaths. To meet the standards, cars had to be build lighter and smaller. In the past 20 years, the weight of an average car has dropped 1,000 pounds. Auto researchers have shown that smaller cars are simply less safea large car without an airbag, for example, is safer than a small car with one. Thus, road fatalities have increased 14 to 27 percent, all due to the governments mandate of greater fuel economy. In 1996, Nevada had 185 traffic fatalities. Its estimated that as many as 39 were caused by CAFE standards. If a proposed 40 miles per gallon standard is approved, as many as 49 additional traffic-related deaths will occur on Nevada roads each year.
So the next time you see an eco-advocate on television talking about protecting children or preserving nature, think of how many deaths have resulted from CAFE standards. The anti-industry environmental camp, led by Al Gore, would love to impose that 40 miles per gallon standard. Its clear where their priorities lie: to them, fuel efficiency is more important than human lives.