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

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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?

xpost: Scholars and Rogues

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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