U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is on a new national-safety crusade, even as his administration pushes for smaller, 35 mpg cars. What’s wrong with this picture?
Looking for new frontiers in government regulation, Lahood opened the second annual Distracted Driving Summit Tuesday by calling for more rules against “features that pull drivers’ hands, eyes and attention away from the road.” His aggressive stance met immediate resistance from carmakers who have spent millions integrating bluetooth and cell-phone systems such as Ford’s SYNC into vehicles over the last decade.
LaHood wants a federal law to address the issue. But is this really the greatest threat to American drivers?
Ironically, Lahood’s Obama green allies are forcing smaller cars that will have a far greater negative impact on safety than mobile devices. While the feds claim credit for distracted driving fatalities falling by 350 deaths last year, the lives lost to raising average vehicle fuel economy by 40 percent by 2015 will dwarf those savings.
“A 2002 National Research Council study found that federal mpg rules (so-called Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards) contributed to about 2,000 deaths per year through their restrictions on car size and weight,” writes Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
This carnage is largely the result of forcing smaller cars onto the road when Americans — by and large — prefer bigger vehicles. When heavy SUVs and light econoboxes collide, the results can be lethal. Yet, this mismatch is precisely what the Obama administration seeks to accelerate with its artificial rules.