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The Truth About Auto Safety

Cars may no longer be unsafe at any speed. Not so the drivers.

A 1959 Sport Cars Illustrated review of Chevrolet’s new Corvair describes the car as “not without sin.” A throwaway comment…By Dusica Sue Malesevic & Claire Cameron

A 1959 Sport Cars Illustrated review of Chevrolet’s new Corvair describes the car as “not without sin.” A throwaway comment on comfort soon became an appropriate description. Assailed with lawsuits for safety defects, the Corvair rolled to infamy in Ralph Nader’s 1965 work Unsafe At Any Speed, the book that promoted auto safety to the top of America’s agenda. First came mandatory seat belts. Airbags. Drunk-driving laws. Less boxy SUVs. Since 1965, the number of deaths on the nation’s highways has dropped 31 percent, from 47,089 to 32,367 per year. That’s quite an achievement, considering we clock over 70 percent more annual miles than we did then. But that’s still 32,367 deaths in a single year, more than seven times the number of Americans killed in the Iraq War in ten years. Although the Corvairs and Pintos have been relegated to the junkyard of history, we still drive under the influence, half awake, without seat belts, and with our eyes on smartphones. On the graphic below, click the orange dots on the black line, or the black arrows surrounding the orange year, to learn the truth about auto safety over the past 50 years.

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