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Fuel Efficiency CAFE standards helped kill my Dad

April 1, 2010

On Friday, July 19, 2002 my Dad hosted a large family reunion that included his brothers, children, grandchildren and one great grandchild.  On Sunday, as we met for a final meal at Moe’s restaurant in Florence, Oregon, I made a point to look my Dad in the eye and tell him that I loved him- he seemed really pleased by that.  My wife and I left that afternoon to visit her parents in Eugene, Oregon, about an hour or so away.  The next day my Mom called me and told me that she had some bad news for me: “Your father is dead.”   The image came to my mind of a curtain closing at the perfect and proper time.  It’s been almost eight years since I heard those words, and sometimes I still miss him more than I ever did.
For some odd reason immediately after the accident, I found myself replaying my Dad’s final scene on this earth over and over in my head.  Perhaps it was too terrifying to face the knowledge that I had no power to bring him back- maybe that is why I kept imagining his final moments as his car drifted off the road just east of Ellensberg, Washington (he was returning to his home in Pennsylvania after the reunion), his belated attempt to fix his mistake, and the over-correction that caused the new Ford Ranger pickup he was driving to roll over and over again- partially crushing the cab, dealing him a mortal head injury and trapping him inside the vehicle.  That was the scene I played over and over again.  Looking back, maybe it was a way to gain the illusion of some control- hitting the replay button on the scene that the paramedics described to my relatives, and that they relayed to me.
Since the cab of my Dad’s truck was not completely crushed (he was alive when other drivers came on the scene a short time later, although he died en-route to the hospital), its seems reasonable that a little bit of extra metal in cab structure would have kept the metal away from his head as the truck rolled (he was wearing his seat belt).  But that extra metal was missing, because of emission standards mandated in 1975:

The evidence is overwhelming that CAFE standards result in more highway deaths. A 1999 USA TODAY analysis of crash data and estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that, in the years since CAFE standards were mandated under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, about 46,000 people have died in crashes that they would have survived if they had been traveling in bigger, heavier cars.  This translates into 7,700 deaths for every mile per gallon gained by the standards.

via Why the Government’s CAFE Standards for Fuel Efficiency Should Be Repealed, not Increased | The Heritage Foundation.

According to these well-researched estimates, 7,700 people had to die over the course of 26 years for EACH mile per gallon reduction in the standards mandated by an ill-thought out law passed in 1975.  Now the standards have been raised again- and there is no evidence that once the new standards are implemented that the bar will not be raised again.

Many fathers, mothers, grandparents and children, aunts and uncles have died since 1975 because of the failure of politicians to consider human life in their calculations of fuel economy.  In 2002, my own father became part of those terrible statistics.  Whose child or mother or father will have to die during the next 25 years because a selfish politician decided to arbitrarily reduce the standards again?  Will it be yours?

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