The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a new study shows
that making vehicles lighter to improve fuel economy has resulted in more traffic deaths,
particularly among small-car owners.
The study indicates that, until stricter rules are set
for vehicle makers to design trucks and SUVs to inflict less damage on other vehicles in
crashes by way of vehicle height standards and bumper designs, occupants of heavier
vehicles such as SUVs and light trucks will be safer than occupants of smaller vehicles.
Among the study’s conclusions: Slight weight reductions of at least 100 pounds in trucks
and SUVs weighing more than 5,000 pounds could save hundreds of lives per year.
reductions in trucks and SUVs weighing less than 5,000 pounds and most passenger cars could
increase fatalities among occupants of those vehicles because of their disadvantage to
larger vehicles. The most fuel-efficient and often least-expensive cars, very small cars,
experience the most fatalities – 11.56 per billion miles traveled, about twice the fatality
rate of small and midsize SUVs and four times the fatality rate of minivans.