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The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Acts – Fiftieth Anniversary (1966-2016)
Nader Holds Four-Day Conference to Commemorate Fiftieth Anniversary Year of
the Publication of Unsafe at Any Speed
Today, September 9, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the National Highway Traffic Safety Act, a result of Ralph Nader’s landmark book Unsafe at Any Speed, which was published the previous year. The book opened with the faulty rear suspension system of the General Motors Corvair, This defect could cause the Corvair to skid violently and roll over. The corporate negligence that had produced the various Corvair defects, Nader said, was “one of the greatest acts of industrial irresponsibility.” More broadly, Unsafe at Any Speed documented how Detroit habitually subordinated safety to style and marketing concerns. The main cause of automobile occupant injuries, Nader demonstrated, was not the “nut behind the wheel” so often blamed by the auto industry, but the inherent engineering and design deficiencies of motor vehicles that were woefully unsafe, especially in terms of “crashworthiness”—no seat belts, etc.
At the signing, President Johnson said, “I am proud of the 89th Congress, which took my proposals and brought forth these laws. And I’m proud at this moment to sign these bills—which promise, in the years to come, to cure the highway disease, to end the years of horror and give us hope.”