Why cars keep getting heavier and roads more dangerous

Screen capture Pickup Truck Ad

Sales of big pickup trucks are up 15% since last year. Sales of the big Dodge, as much of a relic of the last century as Ron Burgundy, are up 58.5%. According to the Detroit Free Press, they are not for construction trades anymore. " Trucks are now luxury vehicles, with every automaker pushing their largest, most heavily equipped crew cab trucks. There are ample numbers of consumers who can afford them."

Gas prices are down, 23 cents lower than last year, but Paul Kedrosky points to another reason: Perceived safety in bigger trucks and SUVs. Presh Talwalkar writes in Mind Your Decisions:

A small vehicle that gets a 5-star rating for frontal crashes only means the car is much safer than other cars of the same size. When that small car gets smashed by a larger, heavier car, let’s just say the 5-star rating isn’t going to cut it. You have to watch this video of a Ford F150 smashing into a Honda Civic.

It becomes a vehicle arms race. Unfortunately, the costs of this arms race affects all of us; according to the study “Pounds That Kill: The External Costs of Vehicle Weight.”:

Weight is a central determinant in the number of collision fatalities and where they occur. “A 1,000-pound increase in striking vehicle weight raises the probability of a fatality in the struck vehicle by 47%."

SUVs and light trucks are on average heavier and thus pose a greater threat to those in other vehicles; in addition, because of factors such as differences in bumper height, they’re significantly more likely to cause fatalities in the vehicles they strike. (Related research has shown they’re also significantly more likely to be involved in single-vehicle crashes because of their propensity to roll over.)

The authors calculate the external costs of all this carnage to be $136 billion per year, and "We further calculate that internalizing the total cost of external fatalities and injuries due to vehicle weight and operation, including crashes with motorcycles and pedestrians, requires a tax of at least $0.97 per gallon, and as much as $2.17 per gallon."

So here we are again, where the small car drivers, the cyclists, the pedestrians are actually subsidizing the SUV and pickup truck driver, with our money and our lives. The easy answer is to crank up the price of gas. What are the odds of that happening?

These things belong back in the seventies with Ron Burgundy.

Why cars keep getting heavier and roads more dangerous
Now that American gas prices are down a bit, sales of SUVs and pickup trucks are way up. How come?

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