Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Unsafe at Any Speed
Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile is a book by Ralph Nader, published in 1965, detailing his claims of resistance by car companies to the introduction of safety features, like seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. One of the examples of the book was General Motors' Chevrolet Corvair. The criticisms of the Corvair were out of date by the time the book was published. It was true that 1960-1963 Corvairs had a suspension design which required drivers to maintain proper tire-pressure to within what some some considered to be an unreasonably fine tolerance, the suspension design was modified for the 1964 model year in order to address the issue.
GM responded in two ways, by trying to silence Nader and also by improving the Corvair's suspension. GM President James Roche was forced (on March 22, 1966) to appear before a Senate subcommittee, and to apologize to Nader for the company's campaign of harassment and intimidation.
The book also claims that the road safety mantra, still used in USA, called the three Es ("Engineering, Enforcement, Education", expanded to four Es in the George W. Bush first presidency with the addition of "Emergency") was created to distract attention from the real problems of vehicle safety, such as the fact that some were sold with tires that could not bear the weight of a fully loaded vehicle.
Some say that the book still has relevance today; it denounced what Nader perceived as the political meddling of the car industry to oppose new safety features. Some see parallels in contemporary debates over the mandatory fitting of air bags, in the United States, and industry efforts by the ACEA to delay the introduction of crash tests to assess vehicle front pedestrian protection in the European Union.
A similar book trading on the well-known title of Nader's is Unsafe at Any Height by John Godson , discussing air safety.
- Interview With Dr. Jorg Beckmann of the ETSC. "Safety experts and the motor car lobby meet head on in Brussels." TEC, Traffic Engineering and Control, Vol 44 N°7 July/August 2003 Hemming Group ISSN 0041 0683
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