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Like Americans themselves, American cars are getting heavier and heavier every year. Our new cars are more efficient, with average fuel economy climbing and carbon-dioxide emissions falling over the course of the past 30 years. But that is not because they are lighter. The average new car weighed 3,221 pounds in 1987 but 4,009 pounds in 2010. Even small-size sedans have packed on the pounds, thanks to more-powerful—if more-efficient—engines, as well as features like nicer seats, more safety features, and more legroom.

We pay a hidden cost for our fat cars. They may be sucking up less gas, slowing the degradation of the environment and the warming of the planet. But they have other "negative externalities" that do not figure into their price tags or day-to-day costs as well—notably, more fatal traffic accidents. The heavier the car, the safer it is for the driver and the more dangerous it is for other vehicles and people on the road. You hardly need a Ph.D. in physics to know that getting in a collision with a Hummer is going to be very bad for the driver of a sedan, let alone a Smart Car, let alone a bicycle. So how much are our fat cars costing us? And does it mean our roads are less safe?

A working paper released this month by two economists from the University of California, Berkeley, Maximilian Auffhammer and Michael Anderson, tackles the first question, attempting to put a price tag on the fatalities associated with big cars. They studied accident data from eight states, identifying the type and weight of vehicles involved in collisions by their VIN numbers. The researchers confirm that the heavy cars kill. Indeed, controlling "for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47 percent increase" in the probability of a fatal accident. The chance is even higher if the heavy car is an SUV, pickup truck, or minivan. (Taller vehicles tend to do outsize damage, too.)

The researchers then set out to calculate the value of the "external risk" caused by our heftier vehicles. First, they considered a scenario in which a driver chose between a car with the 1989 model-year average weight of 3,000 pounds or the 2005 weight of 3,600 pounds. The heavier car increased the expectation of fatalities by 0.00027 per car—27 deaths per 100,000 such vehicles. "Summing across all drivers," they write, "this translates into a total external cost of $35 billion per year," using the Department of Transportation's value of a statistical life of $5.8 million. Judging against a baseline in which a driver chose the smallest available car, such as a Smart Cars, the cost is $93 billion per year. The price tag climbs beyond $150 billion per year if you include the cost of pedestrian and motorcyclist deaths and figure in multi-car collisions.

Given the relationship between big cars and bad accidents, it might make sense to make such cars more expensive to buy or drive. You could do this with insurance premiums, or lawsuits. But the economists suggest a gas tax, "because it is simple and because gasoline usage is positively related to both miles driven and vehicle weight." They say it would take a 27-cent-per-gallon gas tax to account for the $35 billion per year in extra costs from heavier cars. (To account for the $150 billion in extra costs would require a tax of more than $1 per gallon.)

But, surprisingly, none of this really means the roads are less safe. Indeed, traffic deaths hit their lowest-ever recorded level last year. In part, that is because of cars' advanced safety features—steel cages, better antilock brakes, improved air bags, stronger engines—and those tend to weigh quite a bit. (Better emergency medicine, more stringent policing, improved road quality, and the aging of the populace also figure in.) And all things being equal, a heavier car is safer than a light one.

The problem is that American roads consist of a mix of heavier and lighter cars, and the biggest danger is when they encounter each other. The authors write that relative weight is what is most dangerous in crashes. The recent vogue for lighter vehicles, driven in part by high gas prices and changing fuel-economy standards, has raised worries about the chance of more collision deaths. One study found that higher fuel-economy standards imposed in the 1980s led to 2,000 additional deaths per year. If Americans suddenly start buying many more ultra-light cars, it is not hard to imagine more deadly accidents as a result.

It's an unattractive choice. We can all buy heavier cars, all be a bit safer, and all pay more for gas. Or some of us can buy heavier cars, pay more for gas, and be safer while others buy lighter cars, pay less for gas, and die more often on the road. As for the third option—we all buy lighter cars, all pay less for gas, and all be safer—good luck trying to sell that to America.

Source
 

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Dufus.....so did the original writer research how many smart car owners have died in accidents per year? Obviously not.
 

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Thanks interesting... But what does the east coast girls fb have to do with the study in UC berkely? I must of missed something...
 

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Thanks interesting... But what does the east coast girls fb have to do with the study in UC berkely? I must of missed something...
If anybody wanted to directly send her information she might have missed like the FARS data Bob has or their thoughts on her piece that she could respond to directly, her facebook would probably be the best way to contact her. :)
 

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Bring on that 27 cents/gallon tax!

Suppose you are a minimum-wage, single mother of two living in Missouri who must drive 15 miles to work, each way. In addition, you've got to run errands, pick up the kids from soccer practice, go to church, go see the grandparents, etc., so call it 40 miles a day, on average.

Suppose your car is a 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan SX with a 3.6 liter engine, doing a combined 18 MPG (Source 1).

You then consume 2.2 gallons/day, or 800 gallons a year. The 50% tax increase you are advocating takes $72 dollars out of this single-parent, minimum wage family's budget. This is without taking into consideration that everything becomes more expensive when gasoline becomes more expensive because of incremental taxes.

So if this 50% tax increase you advocate sounds like taking food right out of the mouths of kids... well, it is because it is. :eek:


Source:
Fuel Economy of the 1998 Chrysler Town and Country 2WD
 

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But... what if she quit smoking at the same time? Double the returns and better health for the family?

2D thinking works for 2D problems and are far too easy to set up. Addressing a multi-dimensional problem with true multi-dimensional solutions is not only very hard, but more than my mind can normally address.

Even with the best intentions, our world's greatest problem solvers will not be capable of grasping the multiple ramifications from their decisions, however, I would suggest it is better to try, fail, and recover than not to try at all...
 

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Suppose you are a minimum-wage, single mother of two living in Missouri who must drive 15 miles to work, each way. In addition, you've got to run errands, pick up the kids from soccer practice, go to church, go see the grandparents, etc., so call it 40 miles a day, on average.

Suppose your car is a 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan SX with a 3.6 liter engine, doing a combined 18 MPG (Source 1).

You then consume 2.2 gallons/day, or 800 gallons a year. The 50% tax increase you are advocating takes $72 dollars out of this single-parent, minimum wage family's budget. This is without taking into consideration that everything becomes more expensive when gasoline becomes more expensive because of incremental taxes.

So if this 50% tax increase you advocate sounds like taking food right out of the mouths of kids... well, it is because it is. :eek:


Source:
Fuel Economy of the 1998 Chrysler Town and Country 2WD
I have a better Idea. Spend the money you would normally spend on gas and spend it on birth control. Then quit running errands, they only cost money. Tell the grandparents they should have better educated her mother so that they would have sent her to college or a trade school so she would be earning more than minimum wage. Since she wouldn't have any kids and would have a better education and earning more money then she could drive a sub-compact instead of a mini van. Don't blame her bad choices on the price of gas, and don't let her bad choices influence how I choose to spend my money.

P.S. Public Transportation is still a viable source for many people in this country. What she is paying for is not a right, its convenience.

In order to lower costs, I dropped cable TV, downsized my car and quit going out to eat. If she truly wishes to drive a car, then she needs to sacrifice somewhere else. Soccer practice probably cost more then her $72 she spends a month.
 

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Don't blame her bad choices on the price of gas, and don't let her bad choices influence how I choose to spend my money.


Just last night you were advocating a 50% increase on the federal tax gas, i.e., advocating that money be forcefully taken from gasoline users, and now you are blaming the poor for the way you spend your money?

Me, I think the less fortunate deserve our compassion, not our blame. But that's just little me. :eek:
 

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There are a lot of college educated folks working at minimum wage jobs these days. Not everyone has been able to convert all of those thousands of dollars spent on higher education into a good paying job.
 

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They say it would take a 27-cent-per-gallon gas tax to account for the $35 billion per year in extra costs from heavier cars
This is a good one.

First, government forces one to buy cars with (1) airbags, (2) TPMS, (3) new-generation catalytic converters, (4) OBD-II wiring and circuitry, (5) urea tanks, (6) noise-making devices, (7) electronic rollover protection, (8) seatbelt pretensioners for rollovers, (9) stronger roofs, (10) door side impact protection, (11) door lock regulation for accidents, (12) pinch protection for power windows, (13) side-impact head airbags, (14) LATCH anchoring system for children ... and who knows what else.

Those government mandates add hundreds of pounds of weight to your car.

Next, people come out and say that because your car weighs more, the government must tax each gallon 27¢ per gallon, on top of all of the taxes gasoline already pays. :eek:

Funny thing is, if an entity other than government did this to you, such an entity would likely be prosecuted for racketeering.
 

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I have a better Idea. Spend the money you would normally spend on gas and spend it on birth control. Then quit running errands, they only cost money. Tell the grandparents they should have better educated her mother so that they would have sent her to college or a trade school so she would be earning more than minimum wage.

P.S. Public Transportation is still a viable source for many people in this country. What she is paying for is not a right, its convenience.
1. You are presuming she was never married from the sounds of it. She could be single for several reasons: Divorce or Death of Spouse are a couple.
2. Tell me how to not have any errands to run, I'd love not to need to go to the grocery store, bank, post office, feed store, etc.
3. Not everyone wants to go to college or are college "material". Not all parents have the ability to "send" their child to college.
4. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good or a high wage. My son who only went to "trade school" makes more than double what the one who graduated from college makes.

5. Public transportation: only works if it is available and a reasonable distance from your home and destination. I'd have to drive 15 miles at least to catch and ride on that public transportation. The stores I shop at are closer than that.

P.S.: My youngest son has 4 children, all are required to be in car seats. It takes a minivan to hold all of them. Those compact cars don't hold 4 car seats, your lucky if they hold 2. So they bought the best MPG used minivan that they could afford.

OK: back to our regularly scheduled program. Good luck with convincing Americans as a whole to drive smaller cars. I seriously don't think higher gas taxes will do it. Just look at the recent rise in gas prices, I didn't hear of that many people trading in their gas guzzlers.

Just my .02
 

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and that the problem -- even if they WERE available -- most people jsut don't want smaller fuel-efficient cars! Saps! When you need a biger car you need one -- I previously had the whole minivan thing, but now the kids are gone, things get more flexible!
 

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I don't recall what it was a part of, probably a PSA, but I remember seeing an obviously sick older gentleman sitting in a wheelchair with the announcer talking about his upcoming lung cancer surgery while the guy pulls out a cigarette and lights up.

That is my image of many Americans and their SUVs. People will siphon gas out of the lawnmower so one person can drive their 8-passenger SUV another mile or two.
 

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Suppose you are a minimum-wage, single mother of two living in Missouri who must drive 15 miles to work, each way. In addition, you've got to run errands, pick up the kids from soccer practice, go to church, go see the grandparents, etc., so call it 40 miles a day, on average.

Suppose your car is a 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan SX with a 3.6 liter engine, doing a combined 18 MPG (Source 1).

You then consume 2.2 gallons/day, or 800 gallons a year. The 50% tax increase you are advocating takes $72 dollars out of this single-parent, minimum wage family's budget. This is without taking into consideration that everything becomes more expensive when gasoline becomes more expensive because of incremental taxes.

So if this 50% tax increase you advocate sounds like taking food right out of the mouths of kids... well, it is because it is. :eek:


Source:
Fuel Economy of the 1998 Chrysler Town and Country 2WD
What wiltjk said directly below your post, +

Most policies that could be implemented would wind up hurting somebody. If we only think about those cases, progress never happens.

Higher taxes on gas = more revenue = lower taxes elsewhere. Overall, it hurts or helps people depending on how much driving they do times the gas mileage of their car. The gas mileage factor is the main point here, but incentive to drive less isn't completely missing the point either.

I know some people (my family included) that can't really afford $8/gallon gas. If the price of gas doubled overnight, we would definitely have to change some driving habits. However, since the issue is miles * FE, the people it would tend to hurt worst would be those who drive a lot of miles in gas-guzzlers - yeah, all those Tahoes with only 1 person you see all the time, driving the daily commute. To those people, it should be more obvious than most any other way you could put it that a lot of money could be saved by switching to something smaller.

Unforseen consequences and policies that don't quite work out are a given... but if we don't try anything we'll never get anywhere.
 

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A big problem in Detroit, LA, and many other citys, is lack of public transportation.

Many of the intercity folks must travel out to the Burbs to work. Even without the high cost of gas, car ownership and rent, eats most of their minimum wage.

Many of our current over paid cubicle workers, and administrative assistant types will soon be replaced by the Bots. What then? :) A2Jack
 
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