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The birth of National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in America


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Ever wonder why do we end up with a huge pile documents of roads and car regulations today? It all starts with the year 1966 in America. Check it out!

Before 1966, car accidents were prevalent in the United States of America. The number of people had died from traffic-related incidents were more than 1,5 million, thrice as many as Americans who had died in all of their wars in the past. That was the core message of President Lyndon Johnson before he enacted the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and National Traffic act and then the Highway Safety act on September 9, 1966.

He said those car accidents are a national crisis and attributed those lives lost to automobile makers since their designs were proven to be insufficient to protect the passengers inside. These bills set the foundation for all the roads and traffic regulations afterward. By signing those two bills into law, the federal government now has the responsibility to enforce safety standards on the road. In addition, it held automobile makers to a higher standard and required them to continually improve the production process.

USA road in 1960s

Cars on American streets during 1960s

In the mid-1960s, safety experts and reformers were verbal about the issue (such as the author of the book "Unsafe at any speed" - Ralph Nader, who had sold some hundred thousands copies of the book before the time those 2 safety bills were enacted). He made strong arguments that there were many things that automakers were able to do but chose not to: to make their vehicles tougher and much less fragile in the event of accidents, or maybe even to prevent the accident from happening in the first place. What's more, he added, that government should impose regulations on car makers as soon as possible.

The final bill was some sort of disaster for car companies since it required the companies to add a dozen more safety features. Although the companies' lobbyists had tried their best to narrow down the number of new installations, they still have to include the followings: rear-view mirror, windshield defrosters, bright lights on the front and back, as well as the sides of the car, sturdier windshields, seat belts for every seats in the car, shatter-resistant fuel tanks and windshields and car doors that remain intact in case of crashes. For the road builders path, the Highway safety act demanded that they build better guardrails, optimize streetlights and stronger barriers. 

president Lyndon Johnson signing acts

1966 - the day that the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was enacted

Since then, the bills were a huge success, it had saved countless numbers of lives. Still, there is not much those regulations can do if you still want to run the red light, that is beyond the control of the federal government.