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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 118585 Find in a Library
Title: Auto Safety: Assessing America's Performance
Author(s): J D Graham
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 253
Sponsoring Agency: Auburn House
Westport, CT 06881
Publication Number: ISBN 0-86569-188-6
Sale Source: Auburn House
88 Post Road West
Westport, CT 06881
United States of America
Type: Issue Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This book traces the history of how auto safety failed in the marketplace, how seat belts and air bags became a national political issue, and how leaders in Detroit and Washington fought over the power to determine how safe cars should be.
Abstract: Passage of the 1966 Safety Act was as much a failure of corporate strategy as it was a success of the consumer movement. The Big Four auto makers had little presence in Washington and minimal capacity to engage in political behavior. Corporate incompetence, however, was not the entire story. Pioneers of crash injury research provided a technical foundation for a new thrust of political activism. Automotive death rates increased in the early 1960's, when Detroit's profits were on the rise. The 1969-1971 period illustrated how corporate strategy needed to change in response to technological innovation and a new regulatory environment. There was debate over air bags in the early 1970's but, by the end of 1974, there was no strategy at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to bring passive restraints to the marketplace or to increase the rate of manual seat belt use. The 1974-1977 period saw General Motors joining the rest of the auto industry to kill passive restraint regulation. The most significant lesson of the 1977-1980 period was that Congress is not a good power center to serve as the forum for auto safety regulation. In the 1980's, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole achieved widespread enactment of mandatory seat belt use laws for adults, and an amendment to her plan facilitated a breakthrough in Detroit's posture toward air bags. A key lesson from the 1985-1988 period is that market forces, if harnessed, are a faster and more effective road to auto safety than technology-forcing regulations. 887 references, 5 tables, 1 figure.
Main Term(s): Highway safety
Index Term(s): National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Traffic laws
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