Happy 50th Birthday, NHTSA!


In 1965, Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed:  The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile discussing lack of safety and environmental controlsIn the final chapter, Nader called government to action to pay greater attention to vehicle safety related to preventable injury and death.  Nader was called before a Senate Committee to discuss his findings.  Over that same period of time, a car company (later publicly admitted they) reacted to this by applying pressure to Nader to get him to not testify and in an attempt find information to discredit him.  All of this hoopla launched his book to the best seller list in the Spring of 1966.


Ralph Nader in the new American Museum of Tort Law, next to a Chevrolet Corvair. Courtesy A/P

Ralph Nader in Museum of Tort Law and the car that started it all. Courtesy A/P

Nader’s exposure to Congress allowed him to continue pushing for increased safety standards and President Johnson urged congress to pass the laws as well referring to both as landmark legislation.  The two new auto safety laws passed the Senate vote 76-0 that June.  On this day, 9 September 1966, the President signed them into law.  The first was the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act Highway Safety Act to enable the government to lead for safe cars and roads (respectively).  These two laws gave way to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This was a brief overview.  For more information look to History.com1, History.com2, and Pop History.