Traffic Safety: An American Success Story


On this date in 1966, the U.S. National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed into law.

Here are some things you may not have known about traffic safety.

Between 1925 and 1965, the annual number of motor vehicle deaths more than doubled.

There were some obvious reasons for this increase: The nation’s population increased by 75 million, and the number of vehicle miles traveled increased by more than 600 percent.

Even on a per-capita basis, the number of deaths increased by 35 percent.

1965 also saw the publication of the book “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader. The book showed how auto makers resisted the introduction of safety features like seat belts.

It also showed how design flaws in the Chevrolet Corvair made the vehicle prone to specific types of mechanical failure.

Congress responded with hearings on highway safety, which culminated in laws that mandated the installation, but not use, of seat belts, and the creation of the Department of Transportation and what would eventually become the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Following the implementation of the law, vehicles began being commonly designed with head rests and shatter-resistant windshields. Roads were designed with better markings, lighting and separation of oncoming traffic.

Since 1966, the United States has seen a 35 percent reduction in the total number of deaths, despite a population increase of about 60 percent. The per capita number fell from almost 26 deaths per 100,000 people in 1966 to a little more than 10 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013.

It’s estimated that about 3.6 million people have been killed in motor vehicles since 1899.

Our question: Which president signed the 1966 act into law?


Today is Independence Day in Tajikistan and in North Korea. It’s Chrysanthemum Day in Japan and Children’s Day in Costa Rica.

It’s unofficially International Sudoku Day, National Steak au Poivre Day, and National Weiner Schnitzel Day.

It’s the birthday of KFC founder Col. Harland Sanders, who was born in 1890; singer Otis Redding, who was born in 1941; and actor Henry Thomas, best known as Elliott in “E.T.” who turns 45 today.

This week in 1966, the top song in the U.S. was “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes.

The No. 1 movie was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” while the novel “Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


Have a great weekend and we will talk to you next week.


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