Automobile safety is the science and practice of design, construction, and equipment used in the manufacture and operation of vehicles. It also involves the regulation of roadway design and construction. There are many important aspects of Automobile safety, including the following:
Since the 1960s, Byron Bloch has been promoting safer automobile design. Bloch has been trained in human factors engineering and industrial design. He has compiled evidence of automobile fatalities and urged the government to implement tougher safety regulations and safer designs. The result: a significant decline in auto deaths. Since the introduction of the federally mandated regulations, automobile deaths and injuries have been decreasing almost every year. However, many motorists still take auto safety for granted.
Until the 1950s, Americans gave little thought to the safety of their cars. While the American public was accustomed to the idea that cars did not cause accidents, the automobile industry began focusing on new technologies and features to increase safety. These included shatterproof windshields, better brakes, and four-wheel brakes. These innovations made automobiles safer for consumers, and the manufacturers responded. However, these innovations did not lead to the implementation of seat belts and energy-absorbing steering columns.
In the 1960s, a group of Americans, led by Ralph Nader, a prominent consumer advocate, began to push for tougher auto safety standards. Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed, galvanized the public’s interest in automobile safety. Nader accused automobile manufacturers of ignoring the safety of their vehicles, valuing sales over motorist protection. Nader also testified before Congress during the preparation of landmark federal legislation in 1968 that required automobiles to have seat belts.
Government officials began forcing technological change to improve automobile safety. In 1964, Wisconsin became the first state to require car makers to include seat belts in new cars. In addition to requiring seat belts, some states also required floor anchors to make installation easier. By 1963, all new cars had floor anchors, and two more states passed laws requiring them to have padded dashboards and seat belts. This legislation led to seat belts being required in all new cars.
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 mandated automobile manufacturers to implement new automobile safety standards. The legislation also included highway design and non-operational safety factors. Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law, establishing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as a result. The NHTSA mandated uniform safety standards for new and used vehicles and set requirements for road design. Further, NHTSA expanded its scope to include seat belt enforcement and air bags.
In addition to safety, pedestrians are the most vulnerable victims of road traffic accidents. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 41% of road traffic fatalities worldwide involve pedestrians. Despite the fact that pedestrian deaths have remained stable over the past few decades, recent data suggests that the number of fatalities has increased. By implementing effective roadway design solutions, manufacturers can reduce the risk of pedestrian injuries. And, in some cases, these improvements are a matter of preventing a fatality.