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Auto Products Liability: Will New Fuel Economy Standard Compromise Vehicle Safety?

The Obama Administration’s recent unveiling of a new fuel economy and emissions initiative is raising some issues of concern over whether the proposed changes will compromise auto safety. If finalized, the initiative would establish a fuel economy standard of 35.5 mph by 2016. Vehicle categories covered under this joint rulemaking put forth by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency include sport utility vehicles, passenger cars, pickup trucks, and minivans—autos that account for nearly 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.
In a USA Today article, former Office of Management and Budget rulemaking chief John Graham expressed concern that automakers, already financially strapped, might have to compromise safety in order to meet the initiative’s deadlines and, for example, make smaller, less safe cars. This solution could have huge ramifications on people’s lives.
Recent studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that bigger and heavier cars still have the advantage over their smaller vehicle counterparts when it comes to protecting vehicle occupants during an auto crash. If safety is compromised in any way, there is concern that this could reverse the decline in the number of motor vehicle deaths that the US has experienced recently. Last year’s US traffic death rate is expected to be even lower than 2007′s traffic death rate.
White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Director Carol Browner disagrees with these concerns and says that car makers can use new technologies to meet the new fuel standards. Many environmentalists agree with the Obama Administration and say that car makers will merely have to create better vehicle designs and use lighter materials to make their autos.
However, these new approaches could cost more money that currently is in such short supply among even the biggest players in the auto industry that the government has had to provide financial assistance. Just this week, the Obama Administration announced a $7.5 billion bailout to GMAC, which is the auto lender to Chrysler and GMC. This is in addition to the $6 billion that GMAC already received under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Meantime, the federal government has had to take the costs of auto safety into account. For example, the Bush Administration delayed the release of new federal standards mandating stronger car roofs that can withstand more weight during an auto crash over concern that they would be too expensive for car makers to implement. The tougher roof standards were finally announced last month.
Auto Products Liability
Vehicle occupant safety must remain a primary priority for car makers when they are designing and manufacturing their motor vehicles. If your injuries or your loved one’s death was the result of an auto defect, you should speak with our auto products liability law firm today.
Safety could suffer if we boost mileage by making cars smaller, USA Today, May 20, 2009
Notice of Upcoming Joint Rulemaking to Establish Vehicle GHG Emissions and CAFE Standards, NHTSA, May 19, 2009
New Emissions Changes May Not Be Safe, KIMA TV, May 21, 2009
Another $7.5 billion bailout for GMAC, CNN.com, May 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
IIHS Crash Tests Reveal that Bigger and Heavier Motor Vehicles Exhibit Greater Occupant Protection During Auto Collisions
Read the Notice of Intent for the Rulemaking, NHTSA (PDF)

Contact Gilbert & Ollanik, PC today.

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