Safer Vehicles for People and the Planet
Motor vehicles contribute to climate change and petroleum dependence. Improving their fuel economy by making them lighter need not compromise safety
The vehicles we drive produce worrisome carbon dioxide emissions and create a troubling dependence on foreign sources of petroleum. So policymakers would be quite happy if our cars and trucks consumed less fuel. But many people fear that reducing the weight of vehicles, the prime strategy for bettering their fuel economy, would make them less safe. The authors have tested this commonly held belief by analyzing information collected in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a federal database that tracks traffic deaths. They found that smaller, lighter vehicles are no more dangerous for their drivers than pickup trucks or SUVs—and smaller cars are certainly safer for the drivers of the other vehicles that collide with them. The correlation between vehicle mass and driver fatality risk is, in fact, quite weak compared with some other parameters. And technologies are available for making vehicles both lighter and less dangerous for their occupants, suggesting that policy decisions about vehicle safety and fuel economy should be made independently.
Go to Article