Take a closer look at the book that forever changed the way car engineers and vehicle manufacturers designed and developed automobiles.
Ralph Nader earned himself enemies of a different sort – the multimillion, multinational sort – after the publication and subsequent success of his book in 1965. The book was direct in its title,
Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. Its contents, wrapped up in eight chapters, were a reflection of a one-man crusade against major automobile manufacturers in the US at that time.
In presenting his main topic and supporting arguments, Nader took careful note of the features and characteristics of car models that were unsafe. This, he said, is indicative of the industry’s insistence on comfort and cost-effectiveness at the expense of safety measures, against well-founded and technically informed criticism of car design and engineering. He mentioned several industry insiders, one of which is the Tire and Rim Association, which confirmed that the tire pressures in the Chevy Corvair left the car’s front tires overloaded and therefore unfit by industry standards.
The book opens with the rear-engineered Chevrolet Corvair by the General Motors, or what Nader referred to as the “The One-Car Accident”. Aside from the tire pressure problem earlier described, he also mentions the swing-axle suspension design, which was prone to “tuck under” in certain circumstances.
In succeeding chapters, Nader criticizes several other vehicle features, from design elements such as panels and dashboards, to style elements and even gear shift quadrants. He claims that cars are excessively ornamented, with bumpers that are dangerously hazardous to pedestrians and instrument panels and dashboards with shiny chrome and glossy enamel finishes that reflect incoming light into the driver’s eyes. Nader concludes that aggressive styling stands as proof that the car design now has precedence over good vehicle engineering.
Another important point Nader raises with regards to vehicle features is the lack of a standard gear shift pattern for makes and models fitted with automatic transmission. The differences in gear shift patterns make it difficult for drivers to adjust between using the “PNDLR” pattern (reverse at the bottom next to low, used by GM, Packard, Rambler, and Studebaker) to using the “PRNDL” of Ford, Chrysler’s push-button selection, and Chevrolet’s “RNDL” pattern with a separate hand brake for parking. This leads to accidents, as drivers who were intending to shift gears, for example, would accidentally select reverse. Nader’s criticism of the different gear shift patterns resulted to the standardization of the “PRNDL” pattern first used by Ford.
Nader also touches upon several issues that include poor workmanship, failure to honor warranties, vehicle impact on air pollution, and data from crash science that were ignored by the American automotive industry. By way of conclusion, Nader urges the government to put pressure on the automotive industry to prioritize the safety of road users.
Overall, Unsafe at Any Speed is a work of investigative journalism, with substantial references and materials from industry insiders, as well as in-depth observation of vehicle features. Today it continues to be referred to as “that book about the Corvair”. Vehicle conditions have improved over the years, and while the cases presented in the book no longer reflect the vehicles we have today, the awareness – of vehicle design, safety considerations, and some skeletons hidden in car trunks – that it raised proves to be the book’s main legacy.
Additionally, you should always use the services of a reputable Palmdale car accident attorney when victim of an accident. While the California personal injury litigators at JD Law Group have settled millions of dollars worth of claims negotiated by California car accident attorneys, they can refer you to the highest rated car accident firms anywhere in the United States in order to maximize your settlement. Call them today at 1-888-736- 4248 for a free consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website or the web site linked here in are not a substitute for professional medical or legal advice, diagnosis or treatment. In addition, viewing the content on these websites, requesting additional information, or transmitting information through a contact form does not form an attorney-client relationship with the sponsoring attorney. Any results set forth herein are based upon the facts of that particular case or scientific study and do not represent a promise or guaranty regarding similar outcome or causes. The information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and should never interfere with a patient/site visitor and his or her healthcare provider. Internet subscribers or online readers should not act upon any information contained herein without seeking professional legal and/or medical advice. This firm is licensed to practice law only in the state of California, but is affiliated with a network of licensed attorneys in other states. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. PersonalInjury.org and JD Law Group make no representation or warranty regarding the accuracy, reliability, completeness, currentness, or timeliness of the content, text or graphics. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.