Safety first? Increased auto fuel efficiency may or may not save the environment. It's certainly not going to save lives.IN 1936, the American social scientist Robert Merton Noun 1. Robert Merton - United States sociologist (1910-2003)
Robert King Merton, Merton wrote an article in which he attempted to formalize what social scientists have long understood, but activists, policy-makers and especially politicians have either ignored or denied; namely, that government actions have boomerang boomerang (b`mərăng'), special form of throwing stick, used mainly by the aborigines of Australia. effects that are unforeseen, unintended and all too frequently unwelcome. Ottawa's EcoAuto program is a prime exhibit of the federal government's uncanny ability to generate unintended and perverse consequences. Presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. an attempt to save lives in the long run by saving the environment from purported impending im·pend
intr.v. im·pend·ed, im·pend·ing, im·pends
1. To be about to occur: Her retirement is impending.
2. doom, it is liable to cost many more lives in the short term.
According to Merton the most common unintended consequences result from ignorance and error. But he also found that many perverse consequences flow from what he called the "imperious im·pe·ri·ous
1. Arrogantly domineering or overbearing. See Synonyms at dictatorial.
2. Urgent; pressing.
3. Obsolete Regal; imperial. immediacy of interest," where a group or government wants something so much they deliberately ignore or deny the unintended negative effects.
Such is the case with the EcoAuto program launched last March. The program tacks up to $4,000 onto the cost of new cars whose gas mileage comes in over 13 litres per 100 kilometres. Buyers of new cars with 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres or better would receive a $2000 refund from the government. The logic behind Ottawa's rewards and penalties is that they will encourage drivers to shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles, which will not only reduce energy consumption but also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Ottawa's thinking is a made-in-Canada version of the U.S. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, which specify mileage requirements for both cars and trucks. But the perverse consequences of pushing consumers into more fuel-efficient vehicles, amply demonstrated by the U.S. experience with CAFE, went unconsidered un·con·sid·ered
Not reasoned or considered; rash: an unconsidered remark.
Adj. 1. unconsidered in Ottawa's plan.
While some fuel economy is gained through more efficient engines, the main way carmakers meet higher fuel standards is by reducing the mass and weight of their cars. And lightweight cars are, for the most part, less safe vehicles.
The evidence is considerable. In a U.S. National Academy of Sciences study of the effects of reduced car mass and weights to meet the CAFE standards, the authors found "the downweighting and downsizing (1) Converting mainframe and mini-based systems to client/server LANs.
(2) To reduce equipment and associated costs by switching to a less-expensive system.
(jargon) downsizing that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of which was due to CAFE standards, probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993."
Another study, by Robert Crandall of the Brookings Institution Brookings Institution, at Washington, D.C.; chartered 1927 as a consolidation of the Institute for Government Research (est. 1916), the Institute of Economics (est. 1922), and the Robert S. Brookings Graduate School of Economics and Government (est. 1924). and Harvard risk expert John Graham, found that vehicle safety and vehicle weight were correlated. According to Crandall, in a typical year, "CAFE reduced the weight of cars by 14 per cent, but that led to a 14 per cent to 20 per cent increase in fatalities in that model year's car." Assuming a 14 per cent increase in fatalities, this translates into not only 2,200 additional deaths, but some 11,000 serious injuries over the lifetime of these cars, according to science journalist Michael Fumento.
The most damning indictment of smaller and more fuel-efficient cars, however, comes from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2003 study, which found that, since the inception of CAFE, more than 46,000 Americans would still be alive if they had been in heavier cars. According to NHTSA NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (US government) , for every 100-pound weight reduction in cars in the name of fuel economy, there was an annual increase in traffic fatalities of roughly 715 people. As the report noted, heavier cars were generally "wider and less fragile than light vehicles ... [and] because of this they usually had greater crashworthiness Crashworthiness is the ability of a structure to protect its occupants during an impact. This is commonly tested when investigating the safety of vehicles.
Depending on the nature of the impact and the vehicle involved, different criteria are used to determine the , structural integrity and directional stability."
Defenders of lighter, more fuel-efficient cars often argue that the dangers of small cars in collisions will disappear once large cars are off the roads. But the evidence suggests otherwise. Another NHTSA report found that the likelihood of a driver being injured in a single-car accident increased as the car's weight was reduced. Again, the 2003 report found that heavier cars were much less likely to roll over than lighter cars.
Given, too, that Ottawa's push for more fuel-efficient cars will likely lead to more driving, since the cost of driving will diminish, and the penalty for driving larger and safer cars discriminates against both poorer people and those with larger families, this latest bit of boomeranging A boomerang is a throwing implement that can be thrown at a target and whose aerodynamics cause it to follow a curved path that eventually brings it back to its user.
In theoretical physics, the Boomeranger social engineering is, to quote one of the founding fathers of environmental lunacy lunacy: see insanity. , unsafe at any speed.