NHTSA May Try to Justify Lowered MPG Rules By Saying Heavier Cars Are Safer
When the Trump administration, under the shared lead of the President and new EPA head Scott Pruitt, announced that it would be heeding the automaker call to roll back the final determination on fuel efficiency regulations, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Similarly, nobody was seen clutching their pearls in shock when reports started coming out that the government would likely reduce those target regulations.
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However, now a report is coming out that seems somewhat out of left field: according to Bloomberg, the administration is considering safety gains from heavier cars as a potential reason for cutting mpg rules. Basically, they are saying one reason to reduce mpg rules is because heavier cars are safer, and they use more gas to move.
Based on this idea, a draft National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analysis would suggest that traffic fatalities would be reduced by almost 1,200 each year from 2036 to 2045.
On the other hand, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (which is the biggest safety agency besides the NHTSA and is not a straight-up government agency) doesn’t seem to agree with this, and instead told Bloomberg that it was “supportive of the fuel economy standards as implemented. […] The Obama-era changes to the rules, essentially using a sliding scale for fuel economy improvements by vehicle footprint, addressed safety concerns that IIHS raised in the past.”
Given that the IIHS has generally been tougher on its safety tests and standards than the NHTSA (the IIHS even made good headlights a major part of its Top Safety Pick+ determination, causing a mass rethinking of headlight configurations among the automakers), it seems that this particular justification doesn’t hold as much credibility as others.
Personally, I am confused why the NHTSA is considering making this claim as a justification at all. The government already seemed to accept a report that the standards could be a problem for automakers since people just seem to prefer buying crossovers and trucks, and so, the report claims, the automakers would be forced to make vehicles people don’t want (although, this doesn’t exactly hold water either, as it was also found that carmakers were doing just fine implementing efficiency-enhancing technology and were already ahead of the game on fuel savings).