New York Times
229 W 43 St
To the Editor:
The premise for the last article on Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards was accusations by consumer protection organizations that Jerry Ralph Curry, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rigged crash tests and suppressed data related to the video of a large car smashing head-on into a small car. Mr Curry called the contentions a "red herring," and I agree, though for a different reason.
Mr Curry feet the complaints unfounded because choosing which cars to crash is his job and though the occupant injury levels were not mentioned in the commercial, the data was not withheld. Allow me to say, the head-on collision issue itself is the real herring. Upon examination of NHTSA tabulations of motor vehicle accidents in which serious or fatal injury resulted, head-on collisions comprised only 4 percent of such events. The vast majority -- 45 percent -- of serious accidents don't even involve another vehicle. The General Accounting Office reports small cars do better than large ones in single vehicle accidents -- though don't forget, the vehicle design, not size, is the primary reason.
In choosing a new car or approving new legislation, our decisions need to be based on the facts, not emotions.
Note: Upon reading "Auto Safety vs. Fuel Economy: Questions of Size and Design" in the Consumer's World section of the November 2, 1991 Times I immediately wanted to respond, but lacked the data. Despite much prodding of the NHTSA, I received the data a few days ago. I took the time out at this late date to write because the CAFE issue is crucial to our nation, so encourage you to publish this letter.
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Last updated: 4 April 1999