New Fuel Efficiency Standards Will Save Lives and Money

By David Flemming

The Trump administration is rolling back motor vehicle regulations in a way that will likely save lives and money. What they have proposed to do is set new SAFE fuel efficiency standards, freezing the Obama administration’s CAFE standards in 2019, abandoning the requirement that manufacturers attain an astounding 54 miles per gallon by 2025.

Car manufacturers are currently obligated to meet miles-per-gallon fleet minimums that increase with each passing year. SAFE would not remove this obligation, but it would make the requirements less burdensome. This is good news for consumers as well as the auto makers.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), believes that the SAFE rule will “reduce highway fatalities by 12,700 lives (by 2029).” That’s over 1000 lives saved each year, some of which would likely be in Vermont.

How are those lives saved? CAFE standards were designed with the intent of reducing carbon emissions, without regard to driver and passenger safety. Therefore, in order to meet the extreme efficiency standards, vehicle manufacturers were forced to lighten the makeup of their vehicles, making them more vulnerable in collisions with heavier vehicles. As anyone who has taken a physics class knows, whenever a heavier object strikes a lighter object, the lighter object will suffer the most damage. With SAFE efficiency standards, automakers can refocus their designs to prioritize human safety.

In addition, the adoption of the new standards is estimated to save Americans $2,700 per new vehicle purchased. This may very well be the difference between a family purchasing a used vehicle that pollutes and a new clean and efficient vehicle that is better for the family and the environment.  Talk about a win-win.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Hearne November 3, 2018 at 12:30 am

Volkswagon has already produced a vehicle capable of 50 MPG with its now famous diesel engine. I personally have gotten better than 50 MPG on a long trip such as to Florida with one. It is said to exceed the allowable emission standards but really, how much can a vehicle pollute with that kind of efficiency ? In North Walpole N H every day two railroad engines idle away the day. I have nothing against the RR but to truly limit pollution shouldn’t there be some other way of keeping those massive diesels warm and fully charged with air pressure for their brake systems? They produce far more each day than all of the VW diesels in Vermont.


Elliott Greenblott November 5, 2018 at 2:37 pm

While the position EAI takes in support of the Trump policy on vehicle emissions sounds logical, it is flawed by corporate greed. Manufacturers will not increase the weight and thus protective nature of cars if not required to do so. That adds cost and reduces profit. They have the technology to produce safer, light-weight cars at present. The position regarding safety is not exactly correct. Annual highway death numbers in the age of BIG CARS were higher and being hit by a loaded semi or crashing into a ledge or tree or oncoming car likely resulted in death unless you are driving an Abrams tank. Please do not misstate the facts.


Rob November 5, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Actually, vehicle manufacturers did not want the new rules:
Also, keep in mind that the car market is pretty competitive, so car companies will have to pass on most of the savings from the standards to customers. Excess profits are drained away by competition.
Corporations don’t unilaterally reject regulation- they are often quite often with more regulation if it means less competition.
Finally, I wasn’t referencing the age of “big cars,” I was just referencing the past 20 years.


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