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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Size, not weight, matters in cars

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Recently announced new fuel-efficiency standards will preserve driver safety in addition to saving Americans money at the pump, reducing our dependence on oil and decreasing harmful carbon pollution. The Washington Times' recent editorial, "Saving gas, wasting lives," Sept. 17, ignores the basic facts about how the standards work.

Fuel-efficiency standards are set based on a vehicle's size: The smaller the size, the tougher the standard. Therefore, automakers lack an incentive to make smaller vehicles just to meet the standard. Over time, the standards for all size classes increase and automakers are encouraged to improve the efficiency of cars and trucks of all sizes. This is good for consumers. We can choose the vehicle size we want and save money at the pump.

Vehicle size is what matters when it comes to safety. In 2008, federal regulators first implemented size-based standards and rejected a weight-based system. Size, they found, is the critical factor for designing vehicles with needed crumple zones and strategically placed, high-strength materials that protect drivers and passengers. Simply adding weight does not necessarily improve safety. Conversely removing weight while maintaining size can make a safe car use less gas.

Under the current and new fuel efficiency standards, automakers are encouraged to maintain the size of vehicles in their fleets and add fuel-saving engines and transmissions, and strong, lightweight structures that cut fuel consumption but keep cars safe. Bottom line: Increased fuel efficiency and safe passenger vehicles can go hand in hand.

LUKE TONACHEL

New York

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