IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Life and Death at the CAFE: Predicting the Impact of Fuel Economy Standards on Vehicle Safety


  • Damien Sheehan-Connor

    () (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)


Recent changes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the United States mandate substantial improvement in automobile fuel economy over the next fteen years. One of the ways that manufacturers improve fuel economy is to lower vehicle weights, which has impacts on safety. The innovation of this project is a novel maximum likelihood model that avoids issues of driver selection to separately identify the impact of vehicle weight on accident mortality. The key findings of the paper are: (1) A modest 5% average reduction in vehicle weight could increase annual accident fatalities by 4.9% or decrease them by 3.4% depending upon whether the reductions are concentrated at the lighter or heavier end of the current weight distribution; (2) Safety externalities attributiable to vehicle weight substantially exceed environmental ones; and (3) The relationship between vehicle weight and external safety effects is such that a simple Pigovian excise tax on gasoline is unlikely to much improve effciency.

Suggested Citation

  • Damien Sheehan-Connor, 2012. "Life and Death at the CAFE: Predicting the Impact of Fuel Economy Standards on Vehicle Safety," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2012-002, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2012-002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. West, Sarah E. & Williams III, Roberton C., 2007. "Optimal taxation and cross-price effects on labor supply: Estimates of the optimal gas tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 593-617, April.
    2. Whitefoot, Kate S. & Skerlos, Steven J., 2012. "Design incentives to increase vehicle size created from the U.S. footprint-based fuel economy standards," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 402-411.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2012-002. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Manolis Kaparakis). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.