WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage, an argument intended to justify freezing Obama-era toughening of fuel standards.

Transportation experts dispute the arguments, contained in a draft of the administration’s proposals prepared this summer, excerpts of which were obtained by the Associated Press.

Revisions to the mileage rules for 2021 through 2026 are still being worked on, the administration says.

The Trump administration gave notice earlier this year that it would roll back tough new fuel standards put in place in the waning days of the Obama administration. Anticipating the new regulation, California and 16 other states sued the Trump administration in May.

The White House contends that freezing the mileage rules at 2020 levels would save up to 1,000 lives a year.

New vehicles would be cheaper – and heavier – if they don’t have to meet more stringent fuel requirements and more people would buy them, the draft says, and that would put more drivers in safer, newer vehicles that pollute less. The draft also says people will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon, lowering the risk of crashes.

David Zuby, chief research officer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said he’s skeptical of the administration’s estimate of lives saved because other factors could affect traffic deaths, such as automakers agreeing to make automatic emergency braking standard on all models before 2022. “They’re making assumptions about stuff that may or may not be the same,” he said.

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