This seems like someone moved the decimal point over accidentally. Most of the time on the freeway I can see when someone is doing something stupid before they actually do it and I'll position myself accordingly.
I'm afraid the decimal point is correctly placed
You cannot place a dollar value on a human life. That, among other things, is the lesson of the Ford Pinto debacle, as well as any number of other disasters that purported to use cost/benefit analysis to perform this dubious feat. I don't mean that it's simply wrong. I mean also it can't be done. It's a lie, a fraud. When the geniuses at Ford calculated the cost of a defective fuel tank design in human lives, they presumed the cost to Ford, not the cost to their customers. You will find similar logical blunders in all such attempts.
...every year a few hundred utility workers are killed on the job supplying electrical service across the USA. In the customary cost/benefit analysis as performed by the usual ****wits, this is determined to be a sound tradeoff: electric power for millions vs. the death of a few hundred workers. Great, super. Except that when we examine each one of these accidents individually, we find that not one was actually required in order to distribute electrical energy. Every death was needless and unnecessary and accomplished nothing at all. If there is any value at all in these tragic accidents, it is as teaching examples to avoid such disasters in the future. To claim these deaths are justified in cost/benefit analysis is a lie. There is no benefit.
If there's anything to be learned from the Pinto debacle it's the flaws of the US legal system.
The Pinto may not have been the safest car ever built, but at the time its overall safety was comparable to other cars in its class, this include accidents with fire. It was however more prone to fires after rear impacts than other cars in its class, although not as prone as the AMC Gremlin.
Also, the often made claim that Ford calculated the cost of allowing a defective fuel tank on the Pinto is wrong, Ford never made any such calculations. They had however prepared a report for the NHTSA asking them to reconsidered a planned new safety standard meant to reduce the likelihood of fuel tank related fires. This report was not about the Pinto, and neither was it about rear impact integrity but roll over accidents. In this report Ford had calculated the cost of the new regulation to $11 per car putting the total costs at $137 million. This was not the cost to Ford, but the costs for all automakers together, costs which would obviously be transfered to the car buyers. Setting the costs at $200,000 per death and $67,000 per burn injury, the benefit was only considered to be $49.5 million which was considered low compared to the cost. If these numbers seem low, keep in mind that these are not the costs to Ford and other automakers but an estimation of the social costs of auto accidents from a then current NHTSA study.
I disagree with your statement that you cannot put a price on a human life. You certainly can do that, and doing so can be a good tool for evaluation even if there is a high degree of uncertainty in the number. Mostly this number is calculated using the "willingness-to-pay" principle, an estimation about what consumers are prepared to pay for increased safety. In any case, no matter what price you put on a human life it does give you a number that you can compare with other proposals for safety improvements. Although, when it comes to safety people are often irrational.
And speaking about deaths from electric power, coal fired power plants are estimated to cause about as many premature deaths in the US as traffic accidents. Yet, replacing them with the safer options currently available doesn't seem high on the agenda. Perhaps after we have gotten the utility worker fatality numbers down to zero?
Quite a few times, however, I believe that "SUV" (in Australia at least) are built to commercial standards and therefore may no have the crash protection of other "passenger" cars. Then there is the high CoG etc...I say the jury is out on why people feel safe just because they are riding high, wide and handsome!
There are usually smaller profit margins on commercial vehicles, so car manufacturers have less to spend on safety on these cars. Also, these kinds of vehicles are often bought by companies, which can value the lower cost higher. In any case, in real life accidents a higher weight is always beneficial and can compensate for a lower crashworthiness.
As I said before CBA is a blunt instrument. When we are selecting the targets for tires we don't have an exact way of working out what the braking distance is, so we approach it a few different ways and use our judgement. There still is a dollar sign in there, because we work with dollars. So it resembles shopping. The equations aren't exact, the correlation between stopping distance and tire performance isn't exact, we don't know many things exactly. We get the best figures we can and try it a few different ways.
As it happens I agree, some of the big car companies do tend to whine a lot when new regs are proposed, and come up with some pretty stupid arguments sometimes. Despite your claims, I think that gruntgurus graph is a success story, and the tool used to drive safety improvements is CBA, whether for new street furniture, rerouting of roads, or new design features in cars. Everybody on the safety side of the transportation industry expects to use it.
Many companies do progress the state of the art through their own free will, I'd say in particular off the top of my head Volvo (safety), Toyota (HEV) and Mercedes (safety) have pushed the envelope in various positive ways WITHOUT being told to by anybody else in particular.
For the average consumer buying a tire from a premium tire brand is often good enough, even if you don't get the best tire you can avoid the cheap dangerous ones. Tires, like everything else is a compromise. Wet traction, dry traction, noise, rolling resistance, wear resistance; you can't get it all but some property will have to be sacrificed for another. With the safety at any cost principle, traction should be prioritized above all, even if we had to change our tires every week with the result that few would afford owning a car. Clearly safety cannot come at any cost.
To prove that there are more factors in this than meet the eye initially, there is the case of winter tyres which are well known to be better, and therefore safer, in winter conditions, especially snow. In the run of bad and snowy winters we recently had in the UK, people started to think of changing to winter tyres, only to be told by their insurance companies that they weren't to the manufacturer's original spec and therefore invalidated their policy.
You couldn't make it up....
Here in Sweden tires specifically made for winter use are required by law during the winter when road conditions call for it, failure to comply means that not only can you be fined by the police you could also be in trouble with your insurance company, who could for instance require a higher deductible to pay out a claim. New cars are obviously tested with winter tires during winter conditions. Many European car manufacturers do their winter testing in northern Sweden with winter tires and all.
Lately though there have been some controversy with regard to studded winter tires. Studded winter tires, while considered safer than friction type winter tires, cause more PM emissions due to road wear which is a health concern primarily in larger cities where air concentrations of PM10 can be high, particularly during early spring.