American Culture

Yo, GOP: Slash regulation? Or spend up to $27 million to save a life?

Many of the seats the Democrats lost in Congress can be attributed to a tea-party and GOP-influenced desire to shrink the size of the federal government. Presumed goals of conservative and GOP winners: Reduce federal spending. Shrink the deficit. Lessen government’s intrusion into people’s lives.

Well, let’s see what these make-government-smaller politicians do with a cost-benefit analysis of this proposal to further intrude into the lives of people who drive.

By 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants every passenger vehicle sold in the United States to have a rear-view camera. That’s available now as an option for many vehicles. The camera displays what’s behind the vehicle on the navigation screen in the dashboard.

Reason: The agency says back-up accidents kill 228 people a year and injure 17,000. More significant reason: About 100 of those killed are children.

The agency is required to make rules improving visibility when a vehicle is in reverse. Congress approved and President Bush signed the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007. The act is named after a 2-year-old child killed when his father accidentally backed a car over him in a driveway.

The agency says the proposed rule would nearly halve the annual numbers of those killed and injured in back-up accidents. Many saved would be children, it says. That’s the benefit.

When the act was passed, the cost was not known. Now, three years later, it is.

The New York Times reports that “[a]ssuming that about 16.6 million new vehicles are sold each year, it would cost about $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion annually to equip all of them with the system.” That would add somewhere between $150 and $200 to the price of a new vehicle.

But consider this calculation: To save approximately 100 lives annually (the agency estimates between 95 and 112 a year), the cost would be between $19 million and $27 million per life saved.

Sure, that’s spread over the minor additional cost to each of about 16 million to 17 million vehicles sold each year.

As a regulatory agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can make and enforce this proposed rule. Congress has required it to do so.

But it will still be the federal government requiring consumers’ expenditure of up to $27 million to save one life.

The 60-day comment period on this proposed rule is open. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, opposes this new, federally mandated intrusion into people’s lives. America bitched about seat belts once upon a time. Now it’s second-nature to buckle up.

The GOP wishes to discourage regulation. Will it do so here?

4 replies »

  1. This assumes that people driving will actually look at the camera and stop if they see something. How about spending the same amount of money on mandatory driver training? Let me know when they get around to manadatory trigger locks since we kill at least as many kds per year ‘accidently’ by gunfire.

  2. Damn you, Ralph Nader, damn you.

    ….or, crumple zones are for sissies!

    Just kidding, sort of. Automotive safety has gotten wholly out-of-hand. For example, in the United States auto makers are required to build a dashboard that will not kill an unbelted occupant in the passenger seat. Seat belts have been required by law for decades now, but those who break that law must still be protected from themselves.

    One of the reasons that gas mileage sucks as badly as it does (across the board, and it does suck) is that vehicles are bloated in order to meet the ever expanding safety regulations. It doesn’t matter how good the engine technology is, moving a fat car around will always require more energy than moving a svelte car around.

    For $7,000 or less (because they’re now collector items) you can pick up a c. 1990 Honda CRX HF. That car will regularly return you 50 mpg on the highway. Why? Because it’s light as a feather and has an incredibly tall 5th gear. No fancy technology needed, but it was the chassis that Honda chose for the first gen Insight.

    Backup cameras? Don’t cars still come with mirrors? Can’t people still turn around between the front seats and look out the back window? Oh, i know, people choose rolling skyscrapers so the back window can only show you things at least 6′ tall. But people started buying those monstrosities that they don’t use because they felt “safe.”

    Call me a Luddite, but at this point i have no intention of ever buying a car manufactured after 1995. No airbags is a selling point for me, though not as important as a car without cupholders. Any car with a cupholder indicates designers with misplaced priorities…unless the cupholders are small and placed in a way that makes them inconvenient.

    And, yeah, get off my lawn!

  3. That Honda CR-x also had nothing resembling side impact bars or re-enforcement anywhere. YOU hit anything harder then a pedestrian and that car crumbles like a tin can (and even when you do hit a pedestrian). I know this because I had a 91 SI that I heavily modified with a ZC engine exhaust suspension etc. Everyone referred to it as the go cart cause it was obscenely quick and could turn on a dime and give change..The original insight chassis was substantially different from the CRX chassis and I also know this because the fan sites I went to originally spazzed that the CRX was coming back but their hopes were destroyed when the measurements/specs came out and people realized it was nothing like the original CRX. Even with my mods and the extra weight of the si model (which I had lightened some) I still got around 30-45 mpg depending on a variety of variables (usually in the 30s). I used to deliver pizzas in that car so I kept records of mileage 😛

    The 95 del sol I have which was called the CRX 2 gets high 35-45 mpg with air bags side impact bars a 1.5 litre and an automatic (yes I’ve fallen horribly in the performance world). My mom has a 94 with a dohc vtec and a manual with a performance exhaust and even she gets low 30s in that.