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Overall Fatality Risk to the Public at Large Related to National Weight Mix of Passenger Cars
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    Final Report
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  • Abstract:
    This report addresses the question of the effect on the fatality risk to the public at

    large due to shifts in the weight distributions of passenger cars. For example, if the

    weight o f the average passenger car were decreased would fatalities increase? If so,

    by how much? Past studies have stressed the effect s on occupants. But even if

    heavier cars are safer for their occupants the effect on occupants "of other vehicles

    and pedestrians may be affected differently. "

    In this study, fatalities are normalized by registrations in 6 passenger car weight

    classes. On remultiplying by hypothetical numbers o f registered vehicles, fatality

    projections pertaining to hypothetical fleet mixes can be calculated and compared.

    When fatalities from various base years are used, a range of estimates can be formed

    in an attempt to examine the basic question.

    When this program is carried out using FARS fatal accident data for the years from

    1978 to 1987, the estimates indicate that the heavier hypothetical fleet (based on a

    1978 mix) is probably safer for the public as a whole than the lighter hypothetical

    fleet (based on 1987). A quantitative estimate is hard to j ust i f y, but our results very

    roughly suggest a 3% advantage in saf et y for the heavier fleet.

    When the results are broken down by accident type, they are variable: fatalities in

    single vehicle accidents would probably be considerably less in the heavier fleet, while

    pedestrian deaths may actually be less for the lighter fleet.

    Because of the difficulty of the question and the inability to control confounding

    factors, all estimates here must be considered tentative and no great accuracy should

    be ascribed to them.

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