Matthew Wald, who likes to retail coal company talking points, is out Tuesday with a piece that deserves a place of honor in the journalism hall of shame. The facts behind the story are that in a collision between a big car and a little one, the little one will be much more damaged and the people inside more hurt. Now you might think this could be thought of in more ways than one, for example that people who choose to drive big cars are putting others at risk, kind of like people who have large vicious dogs, or smoke in bed in apartment houses, or open their car doors without looking back to check for bikes. Wald’s lead, and the entire framing of the story is
Consumers who buy minicars to economize on fuel are making a big tradeoff when it comes to safety in collisions, according to an insurance group that slammed three minimodels into midsize ones in tests.
Excuse me: how is the citizen who does the right thing for the planet the one making the tradeoff?
The [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] concludes that while driving smaller and lighter cars saves fuel, “downsizing and down-weighting is also associated with an increase in deaths on the highway,” said Adrian Lund, the institute’s president.
Excuse me: why is oversizing and up-weighting not the behavior associated with an increase in deaths on the highway? Why is the “standard” car the fat, thirsty, heavy vehicle of the reckless and self-indulgent? The excess injuries are associated with different sized cars, not small cars; why is the IIHS blithely fomenting an arms race for bigger cars, instead of demanding much higher premiums to insure the road yachts that put sensible people at risk for doing the right thing?
I don’t know where the copy editor of the Times spent the evening, but please: the lead for this story is “Consumers who buy large cars not only pay more for gas and endanger the planet, but also risk the lives of strangers when it comes to safety in collisions, according to an insurance group that slammed three minimodels into midsize ones in tests.” And Wald needs to do some actual reporting instead of snipping up press releases.