New fuel economy regulations weaken transport safety message

As the Christmas holiday season approaches, it is worrying that the number of road deaths and injuries is on the rise. According to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, more than 20,000 Americans died on US roads in the first six months of 2021, an increase of 18.4% from the same period in 2020. C is the worst since 2006.

In response, Department of Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a national road safety strategy, aimed at reducing the number of fatalities. He said on October 28, “We cannot and must not accept these deaths as just part of daily life in America. “

Secretary Buttegieg’s tough stance in favor of safety makes it all the more puzzling as the NHTSA, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, is proposing new regulations for fuel economy, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. The NHTSA openly states that these regulations would increase road deaths and injuries.

The new fuel economy proposal will raise the company’s 2026 average fuel economy standard to 48 miles per gallon (MPG) from the current 40 MPG standard. The rule would set a new minimum standard of 50 MPG for passenger cars made in the United States, with fines for non-compliant automakers. That would increase the price of cars by $ 2,264 (before inflation) by 2026 and the price of light trucks by $ 2,210, according to NHTSA.

This price increase means that fewer people will be able to afford new and used cars of newer models, which are safer than older cars. In tables in its Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis, released in October, NHTSA estimates that new vehicle sales will decline by more than 2%, leading to 1,800 more road fatalities each year, 80,000 more injuries and nearly 300,000 additional accidents involving material damage. .

This increase contradicts NHTSA’s core values ​​of leading “the nation in defining the motor vehicle and highway safety agenda” and “a catalyst to address critical safety issues that affect vehicle safety communities at engine and roads ”.

Deaths and injuries from the new CAFE rules will be concentrated among low-income Americans, disproportionately minorities, because, due to rising prices, they will buy fewer new cars and less used cars of later models.

It’s curious that NHTSA chooses to do so, as it directly contradicts the Department of Transportation’s focus on “health and fairness.” According to the ministry, “households in low-income areas generally own fewer vehicles, have longer journeys and have higher transportation costs.”

The proposed average of 48 MPG for CAFE standards will force automakers to sell more electric vehicles to comply. However, if people choose not to buy the vehicles, automakers will have to lower their prices and raise the prices of popular pickup trucks and SUVs to remain profitable. Low-income people and rural Americans will pay more for their favorite vehicles, subsidizing the better-off residents of cities and California, who are the main buyers of electric vehicles.

Automakers will be penalized both by rising prices for new cars, which will reduce vehicle sales, and by subsidies for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles require less manpower to manufacture and use batteries from China. Additionally, the 50 MPG minimum standard for domestically produced passenger cars would encourage automakers to produce passenger cars overseas.

The NHTSA and the EPA say the proposal will be beneficial because it will have little effect on global temperatures and because drivers will spend less on gasoline. But the increase in fatalities, injuries, property damage and jobs at relocated automakers should be of concern to Secretary Buttigieg and others who value road safety and jobs.

On Thursday, the Senate Trade Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Steve Cliff to be a director of the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. Cliff is now the Acting and Deputy Administrator of NHTSA. Senators may wish to ask why security – the mission of DOT – is sacrificed during its tenure.

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