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U.S. Auto Safety Standards: Undermining Efficiency, Ignoring Pedestrians

10:42 AM EST on January 6, 2011

We've written before about how perverse "safety standards" imperil pedestrians when it comes to street design. It's disappointing to discover some of the same flawed logic is at work in the safety regulations for automobiles themselves.

Network blog Systemic Failure is highlighting how safety rules for American motor vehicles are not only preventing car companies from achieving higher fuel efficiency, but turning a blind eye to the fate of pedestrians in a collision:

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SUV and small truck sales are booming again, and Detroit automakers have returned to their bad old ways. But when prices surpass the $4/gallon mark again, what plan do they have for the next gas crisis? One simple answer: re-brand fuel-efficient cars they already sell in Europe. Believe it or not, both Ford and GM do quite well selling gas-sipping cars in Europe, where the price per gallon can easily double US prices.

But alas, it is not so simple. Under Federal “safety” regulations, it is illegal to sell European automobiles in the US market. There are dozens of minor differences in safety regulations. And those differences don’t necessary make vehicles any safer for the American consumer.

The blog cites a 2008 Associated Press article, which finds fault with U.S. safety standards.

Another major shortcoming in the American regulatory framework is in the design of bumpers. American bumpers only have to protect the car; whereas Europe bumper tests simulate crashes against pedestrians.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Write of Way reports that Chicago is gearing up to develop an elevated trail and park modeled after New York's High Line. And Hard Drive announces Portland's Tri-Met has introduced a bus and train arrival tracker for the iPhone.

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