BILLION-DOLLAR BUMPERS

Federal involvement in the motor vehicle safety field is critiqued, with reference to the increasingly high prices for new cars. During the 1970's, many laws dealing with safety, emissions, and energy were passed by Congress. Federal control of the auto industry began with safety considerations in 1966, followed by emission regulations in 1970 and energy standards in 1975. Laws were passed in almost total isolation from one another. Safety regulations adversely affect gasoline mileage and, in some cases, emissions. Emission laws reduce performance and gasoline mileage. The Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, passed in 1966, put responsibility for passenger car design, previously monitored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), in the hands of the Federal government. Because no more than 25% of the driving population have worn seat belts originally mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency proposes passive safety in the form of air bags, which will add to every new car's price tag. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards promulgated by the NHTSA differ from SAE standards in that the Federal standards specify a capability rather than a piece of hardware. Safety devices have added as much as $1500 to a car's cost, and it is questionable whether drivers are safer in 1980 than in 1966. Passive safety or crashworthiness does not achieve roadworthiness, and does nothing to prevent accidents, as is indicated by the absence of property damage reduction during the decade of Federal control over auto safety. The contribution of improved air quality to public health is not yet known. The greatest cost of compliance with Federal mandates has been the tremendous increase in auto fuel consumption. Improved air quality regulations have resulted in the burning of an additional three trillion gallons of gasoline at a cost of over $1.5 trillion. Downsizing is the biggest single factor in reducing fuel consumption. By 1984, car manufacturers will have spent over $80 billion to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. The average new car about the size of a Ford Pinto is expected to cost over $10,000 in 1984, in light of Federal requirements.

  • Corporate Authors:

    National Review, Incorporated

    150 East 35th Street
    New York, NY  United States  10016
  • Authors:
    • Solomon, J
  • Publication Date: 1979-9-14

Media Info

  • Pagination: 4 p.
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00391482
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-028 830
  • Files: HSL, USDOT
  • Created Date: Dec 30 1984 12:00AM