Mandatory federal fuel economy standards for automobiles result in lighter, smaller and more dangerous cars responsible for a higher death and injury toll on the nation's highways, a new study says.

The report by Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Crandall and Harvard Professor John Graham concludes that the standards affecting 1989 model year cars will cause 2,200 to 3,900 additional deaths and thousands of extra injuries during the next 10 years.At issue is legislation passed by Congress in 1975 that established Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards. These CAFE standards, representing the average mileage of an automaker's entire fleet, were designed to increase the incentive for automobile producers to improve fuel efficiency in the wake of oil shortages.

The CAFE rate for 1987-1988 model year cars was set at 26 mpg by the Transportation Department. "Fuel economy regulation inevitably leads to smaller, lighter cars that are inherently less safe than the cars that would be produced without a binding fuel economy restraint," the study said.