Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American

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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:44 pm

PART 2 OF 2 (CH. 5 CONT'D.)

Engineer-employees serve their companies in other important activities intended to reduce the scope of conflict between automobile makers and to control the content of government action wherever it cannot be avoided altogether. The principal institution for the industry coordination of decisions concerning the technical issues in vehicle safety is the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a tax-exempt organization founded in 1905, which describes itself as follows: "The object of the Society is to promote the Arts, Sciences, Standards and Engineering Practices connected with the design, construction and utilization of self-propelled mechanisms, prime movers, components thereof, and related equipment." The society holds meetings to discuss technical papers and develops engineering standards and recommended practices. SAE reported a gross income in 1963 of $1,549,808, composed mainly of individual membership dues and industry contributions.

The control by the automobile industry of SAE's motor vehicle standards work is so complete that the engineering community does not consider the society as anything more than a ratifier of industry policies and decisions. The Automobile Manufacturers Association is SAE's traffic light.

In the structure and operation of SAE's working committees is seen the impressive connections between SAE and the automobile industry. The automotive council of the SAE technical board is composed of numerous committees and subcommittees dealing with automobile safety. Membership on these committees is held mostly by engineer-employees of the motor vehicle manufacturers. Although membership in SAE is on an individual basis, the corporate employer is always identified alongside the member's name on the committee rosters. The automotive safety committee is composed of eight members-all employees of motor vehicle producers. The same is true of the bumper height technical committee, and over four-fifths of the membership of the body engineering committee is similarly constituted. Other committees, such as the brake committee, include a few representatives from universities, government agencies, and companies who supply the automobile industry.

Apart from numerical dominance, the automobile manufacturers have a practical veto power. SAE Technical Board Rule 8.1 states: "Reports submitted to the Council for approval, in general, should have the unanimous approval of the committee making such a submittal. Where unanimous approval cannot be achieved, reports shall have the approval of at least three-quarters of the members." Rule 8.6 reads: "Councils will strive for unanimous approval, and in no case will they approve a report which has not been approved by three-quarters of their members."

The automobile industry also finances the work leading to the development of standards or recommended practices. It does this by contributing to SAE staff support and by absorbing the time and expenses of its employees who, as SAE members, attend committee meetings and use company testing facilities in the writing of standards. SAE does not undertake work on a new standard or recommended practice unless requested to do so by the industry-dominated SAE technical boards -- which must reflect a consensus of their members. This intricate network of participation and control is a basic reason why no SAE standard, recommended practice, or information report in the motor vehicle field has ever been promulgated without industry endorsement.

SAE's entry into the automobile crash protection area was a late one. The first SAE recommended practice was in 1955, and dealt with specifying a minimum loop strength of three thousand pounds for a two-inch-wide seat belt. Since that year, SAE's work in vehicle safety has dealt either with specifying test procedures or with establishing minimum performance levels for those safety features which had become the subject of legislation or threatened legislation. These include seat belt assemblies and anchorages, passenger car side-door latches, and rear vision in passenger cars. Generally, however, SAE technical positions on vehicle safety are grossly incomplete or nonexistent. Bumper standards are apparently taken care of by SAE Standard J681, concerning bumper heights, which defines heights only for front bumper "dip" and rear bumper "lift" when the vehicle experiences a maximum brake stop at five to ten miles per hour. Another standard, SAE J903, deals with performance requirements of the windshield wiper, but not the area of the windshield to be wiped. SAE J839, the standard for passenger car side-door latches, was written by a subcommittee composed entirely of automobile industry employees. The standard calls for the latch to have a load resistance of 1500 pounds -- an unusually weak level that some automobile manufacturers have recently felt necessary to exceed. The requirements in Standard J839 for testing the latches are even more limited, failing to provide for several kinds of crash stresses.

SAE has never developed, for example, standards or recommended practices for tires, impact criteria for the steering assembly, glare levels, dashboard panel instruments and controls, sun visors, handles, knobs or other load-concentrating projections and passenger compartment crashworthiness. It was not until 1961 that industry representatives allowed the establishment of the Automotive Safety Committee.

The only other private standardizing organization that has dealt with aspects of the automobile is the major standards group in the United States -- the American Standards Association (ASA). (It has approved standards for automobile safety glass, glare and reflection levels, and vehicle inspection criteria.) ASA is a national federation of 140 technical societies and trade organizations, and has some 2200 company members. ASA does not initiate or write standards; it considers standards for approval only on the request of a responsible organization or group. [1]

As a result, ASA bas reflected the desire of the automotive industry to have SAE standards dominate the motor vehicle field. This important domination is made possible by the consensus principle that is crucial to the way ASA works. An ASA standard can be approved only if there is a consensus among all groups which are substantially concerned with its subject matter. This gives the automobile industry another veto on all proposals dealing with automobiles for, as an ASA statement reads, "Votes are weighed rather than counted." An objection by the automobile industry, or even a major automobile company, would be enough to outweigh all opposing votes.

Both SAE and ASA standards are advisory only. Their use by anyone engaged in industry or trade is voluntary, but since they are approved by the majority, they are used by the majority. In the motor vehicle safety field, these standards form the substance of a unified industry policy on particular technical issues. And the consensus principle makes almost certain that the lowest common denominator of performance requirements is adopted.

The typical pattern followed in SAE automotive safety standards or recommended practices is to state only a single minimum performance value -- such as the load to be withstood by door latch and striker assemblies -- without any accompanying technical reasoning or explanation. The committees work in secret, and there is no release of proposed standards or recommended practices for technical comment or criticism by SAE membership or the scientific and engineering community at large. The first time an SAE member sees the standard is after it has been formally promulgated. Once a standard is announced, the automobile industry can then say to the outside world that its products meet the standards set by the Society of Automotive Engineers -- which, in the words of a former SAE president, James Zeder, "serves no selfish interest."

The industry has found more ambitious objectives for SAE standards when it comes to translating those standards into public law. Their policy runs in this pattern: since standards inform the buyer of what he has a right to expect from the seller, the industry, as seller, recognizes the importance of getting SAE standards incorporated into laws and regulations which define the level of safety that must be assured to the consumer. As public pressure for safety legislation increases, activity of SAE commit tees will also increase to make sure that lawmakers will have industry-approved criteria to put into the new laws.

There is ample precedent for this approach. Automobile Manufacturers Association "field representatives" routinely advocate -- with success -- that state legislation employ an SAE standard as its yardstick. Seat belt laws in many states explicitly include SAE standards, for example. Brake fluid legislation in over twenty-five states is written on the basis of SAE standards. AMA lobbyists usually have little difficulty. Since state lawmakers have no alter native recognized source of technical standards, whatever is available is adopted. Should there be any skeptics, the prestige and standing of SAE is emphasized by citing its formal participation in the work of the ASA, the Highway Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences, the Interstate Commerce Commission's advisory committees, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, the National Highway Users' Conference and the National Safety Council. Such prestige and power makes almost irresistible the casting of SAE into the role of ad hoc legislator.

The Automobile Manufacturers Association is also alert to any threat of an independent standards-setting capability being set up in government. In 1960, the AMA suggested an amendment to H.B. 1341 (the original House bill directing the General Services Administration to set safety standards for government-procured vehicles). The proposed amendment read: "Such standards shall conform to nationally recognized standards such as those published by the American Standards Association and the Society of Automotive Engineers [and shall] be revised from time to time to revisions in said nationally recognized standards." This language was not adopted in the bill which finally became law (called the Roberts law) on August 30, 1964. The automobile makers simply shifted gears and tried to achieve the same objective through their industry advisory committee to the GSA officials who were administering the Roberts law. At the specification development conferences, the duet of William Sherman of the AMA and George Gaudaen of the SAE (who was formerly Sherman's assistant at AMA) sang a similar tune: if we don't already have the standards and test procedures for you, we'll have them soon.

Gaudaen's position was so blatantly attuned to the special interests of the industry that it became embarrassing to his colleagues from the AMA. SAE, after all, is supposed to be a professional association with a suite separate from that of the AMA in the New Center Building in Detroit. But Gaudaen advised GSA, with a mixture of the arbitrariness and authority that is so cl1aracteristic of the SAE, that it should dismiss from its proposed lists of safety features a number of items not considered to be of safety significance. Included in the list were seats to prevent neck injuries, bumper performance and heights, rear window defogger and wiper, and exhaust controls. He then insisted that consideration of five other features on GSA's proposed list be deferred until long-run studies by the SAE and the industry were completed. This group included safer instruments and knobs, handles and window controls, padded roof lining, drive signaling, and the design of instrument panel controls. The remaining items on the list Gaudaen tied to SAE standards and test procedures that were either already established or imminent under the SAE's speeded-up program to serve GSA in its mission.

SAE is no less diligent in protecting the commercial interests of the industry than it has been in defending the political interests of its sponsor. SAE's role as minion is shown in the story of the industry's long-standing practice of rigging odometers -- the devices that record the number of miles traveled.

In 1963 the National Bureau of Standards (Department of Commerce) released the MacKay report, which showed with irrefutable exactness that for American automobiles, a mile is not necessarily a mile. For years, as some alert motorists know, Americans have been driving less than they think they have. The MacKay study showed that automobile odometers over-registered mileage on an average of 3.21 per cent, with some cars registering an error of over 5 per cent.

Complaints about odometers have been registered for years with state agencies and the Federal Trade Commission. But state regulations defining the permissible margin of error were ignored by the industry and not enforced by the state administrators.

Few practices can be more deceptive than tampering with the integrity of a measurement, whether it be miles, pounds, or inches. Few deceptions could serve such a variety of purposes. Car and tire warranties based on mileage run out sooner when odometers are over-set. Gas-mileage-per-gallon claims of manufacturers are overestimated or inflated, making easier the task described by Ford's Ray Pittman: "We fight for fractions of one per cent for fuel economy." A car owner could receive a lower trade-in value because depreciation is estimated partly on total mileage traveled. Over-set odometers tend to make the car owner think his vehicle is ready to trade in sooner, which helps feed the new car turnover. Finally, customers who rent cars pay for miles they did not drive. Based on the estimate of 1.25 billion miles traveled in 1964 by rented passenger cars, a 3.31 per cent overcharge, at the rate of ten cents a mile, would amount to an overcharge of almost four million dollars. An average 3.21 per cent premium on gross sales is a healthy fillip for the large, car-buying rental companies.

The automobile industry learned of the National Bureau of Standards study of odometer performance in 1962. An Automobile Manufacturers Association odometer committee was formed to represent the industry in meetings with bureau officials who were working out new standards for the states so that odometers would have to register an average error nearer to zero. (Because a variety of conditions such as tire size, inflation pressure, weight, and road pavement affect odometer readings, it had been customary to provide for a plus-or-minus error tolerance range around zero.)

The AMA odometer committee did not dispute the National Bureau of Standards findings. It stated that member companies ordered odometers from suppliers according to SAE specifications. SAE recommended practice J678b permits a five per cent over-registration error.

But the AMA knew that the game was over, at least to the extent that it was played, and in December 1964 the Automobile Manufacturers Association informed the National Bureau of Standards that in 1965 manufacturers would install odometers that were set to the new bureau specifications.

The AMA position, so long unquestioned by the public guardians of weights and measures, was wholly untenable from both an engineering and a moral viewpoint It was technically simple to produce more accurate odometers. Yet inquiries about the role of SAE as a ratifying participant in a fraud on consumers still elicit only the stock reply from SAE's New York headquarters that "the speedometer and odometer are designed and manufactured to be as accurate as possible."

Despite all the facts, SAE apparently does not consider its position any more incongruous than the fact that it held shares in Hertz Corporation during the period of the odometer investigation. [2]

Another service performed by SAE for the automobile industry is public relations. For example, since a company brochure on the safety of its automobiles cannot avoid a partisanship that would call its objectivity into question, it is far more effective to have the "message" relayed to the public under the auspices of SAE. Indeed, anyone who writes to one of the "big three" automobile companies for printed matter on safety is likely to receive a thirty-seven-page paper entitled "The Safety the Motorist Gets," with the SAE emblem prominently displayed in the upper left hand comer. 'This booklet is a detailed attempt to show that the automobile manufacturers give the motorist "all the safety that can be built in without destroying the utility of his vehicle." The pamphlet has five sections, including contributions by all the domestic automobile makers; it ends with a section of full-page maps of all the companies' proving grounds and the assurance that safer automobiles have probably been the greatest contribution toward keeping the casualty rate down.

"The Safety the Motorist Gets" was published as SAE paper SP-165 in June 1959 and is still being circulated, suggesting that vehicle safety developments since that year have not diminished its enduring currency. It is an argumentative brief for the industry's commercial practices and policies in automotive safety. One of the instances in which the pamphlet was used occurred when the House subcommittee on health and safety began its hearings in 1959. One of the issues it was considering was whether new safety devices should be standard equipment or extra-cost options. The SAE paper, a copy of which had been dispatched to the committee by SAE General Manager John Warner, explained that proven safety devices fall into two categories: those devices whose "immediate application on all cars is considered virtually imperative, such as sealed-beam head lamps," and those which are "clearly an aid to safe driving, but something less than a vital necessity." The pamphlet went on to explain that safety equipment in the second category is first introduced as an option and only adopted as standard equipment "when public demand becomes substantial enough." As examples of items that had passed this test of the marketplace, the pamphlet cited windshield wipers and directional signals. As current examples of devices which the industry felt should first be put through this test, the paper listed power windows, power seats, reclining seats, head rests -- and seat belts!

"The Safety the Motorist Gets" discusses and defends controversial issues of design and industry policy which have no connection whatever with the stated purpose of SAE to advance the state of the art of automotive engineering. The SAE constitution said, "Matters relating to politics or purely to trade shall not be discussed at a meeting of this Society or be included in its publications." But "The Safety the Motorist Gets" is sprinkled with dozens of references to "industry" or "manufacturers" in the general context of praising the high industry standards, the rigorous testing and inspection, and the millions of miles of durability runs on the industry proving grounds.

Three months before SP-165 was released, Lloyd Withrow, head of the General Motors fuels and lubricants department, expressed his concern that SAE ought to publish better technical papers. He wrote: "I have talked with people who believe that SAE performs more like a trade association than a professional engineering society. These people say that the society appears to be more concerned with the production, sale and distribution of automotive products than either the development of new engineering knowledge or the application of sound engineering principles to the design of new automotive equipment." Few of SAE's 25,000 members would be surprised at Withrow's observations.

Only one member formally challenged the propriety of "The Safety the Motorist Gets" before the SAE's National Council. The council unanimously rejected the challenge, but SAE president Leonard Raymond wrote in the March 1960 issue of the SAE journal that "there may have been departures from best practice in connection with the paper in question ... and we intend to see to it that they are not repeated in the future." But Mr. Raymond did not request the automobile makers' public relations offices to cease distributing the paper.

The SAE automotive council and its committees are rarely called on to confront challenges or dissent. By planning the subject matter for the technical meetings, and by arranging for the papers to be delivered, SAE leaders have made certain that not a single paper devoted to engineering criticism of contemporary vehicle safety design has found its way into the SAE program. This is quite a record, since almost five hundred technical papers and articles on motor vehicle subjects are delivered each year at SAE gatherings.

On only one occasion -- the summer meeting of 1961 -- was the curtain parted briefly to permit the reading of a paper by Dr. William Haddon, a leading accident researcher who is associated with the New York State Department of Health. Dr. Haddon, whose background is in medicine and engineering, made an incisive analysis of the ways the medical and public health professions were approaching the problem of motor vehicle accident injuries, aided by techniques originally developed for the investigation and control of communicable diseases. He characterized both goals -- disease prevention and accident prevention -- as being fundamentally "engineering" problems. That is, concentration on the hostile environment -- the malaria swamp or the interior of a vehicle-is almost invariably more productive than trying to manipulate the behavior of people. He described to his engineering audience the path he saw ahead. "Our two professions," Dr. Haddon said, "have an objective in common which will continue to confront us probably for the remainder of our professional lives. This objective is the prevention, partial or complete, of some forty thousand deaths per year, and the reduction, amelioration or elimination of an additional four million injuries. ... The greatest challenge which you as a profession now face and may ever have faced, is the challenge of designing a vehicle which, under the normal conditions of its daily use, does not, in the accidents which inevitably happen, result in injury and death of substantial numbers of its users ... the success of your profession in the present decade will largely be weighed in terms of its success in handling this overwhelming problem."

Dr. Haddon's powerful appeal to automotive engineers to apply their professional dedication to the safety of their products was received with polite lack of interest. Later, even the politeness vanished. No SAE publication list contains a reference to his address. The heads of SAE did not consider it worthy of publication, and no reason had to be given for the omission, just as no reason had to be given for the inclusion of such items as remote from engineering as The Feminine Mystique in Design.

Actually Dr. Haddon's effort was doomed from the beginning. He was addressing a body that does not exist: the automotive engineering profession. The Society of Automotive Engineers bas no code of ethics, and it subscribes to no code of ethics in the engineering world. This is a serious lapse, ethics are more than slogans meant to fill a plaque to be hung on office walls. Ethics define important social interests which a profession assumes the responsibility to serve, and they require an independence from the erosive or destructive effects of commercial pressures.

For example, the code of ethics of the National Society of Professional Engineers makes clear what the duty of the individual engineer is in regard to safety. Section Two says, "The Engineer will have proper regard for the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of his professional duties. If his engineering judgment is overruled by non- technical authority, he will clearly point out the consequences. He will notify the proper authority of any observed conditions which endanger public safety and health.... He will not complete, sign or seal plans and/or specifications that are not of a design safe to the public health and welfare.... If the client or employer insists on such unprofessional conduct, he shall notify the proper authorities and withdraw from further service on the project."

In order concretely to develop the meaning of its code, the National Society of Professional Engineers' board of ethical review comments on actual cases that are brought to its attention. One case involved a company which manufactured a defective automated mass transportation system. The engineer responsible for the project reported to his superiors that the system failed the final tests and, as it was, presented a danger to the public. He was told that to meet contract commitments, the equipment would be shipped to the client-purchaser without notification of the failure of the final tests. Over the objection of the engineer, the shipment was made. Did the engineer have any further ethical duty? The board concluded that he did, stating that he should have brought the danger to the attention of the client and the responsible authorities.

In medicine, law, architecture, and other professions, academic institutions provide nourishment for the perpetuation of professional standards. But only a shadow of a professional discipline in the automotive engineering Held exists at universities. It is decidedly the poorest segment of the engineering curricula. Research on vehicle mechanics, for instance, involves only a half dozen small projects. Automobile collision testing and measurement is limited to UCLA's Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering -- and there on only a sporadic basis. Automotive engineering courses -- indeed, even engineering professors specializing in automotive mechanics -- are a rarity, as are graduate students who follow such a course of study. The amount of technical literature flowing from the universities is pitifully small. As the new engineering specialties expand and absorb the better engineering students, the situation in automotive studies and facilities at universities is not likely to improve. It is a condition that goes back many years and has had most unfortunate consequences which Leonard Segel of the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory has described thus:
"Instead of a student and faculty focus on automotive engineering that would generate a 'free' and an 'all-divulging' automotive literature, we have had an industry focus which ... does not develop a professional attitude among most engineers employed within the automotive industry. Both business management and engineering management are willing to take undergraduates, give them test-and-process engineering assignments, and gradually teach them the 'industry way.' It is argued that unless an atmosphere of professionalism surrounds the research worker, his efforts, whether good, bad, or mediocre, will come to no avail."

Professor Wolfgang Meyer of Pennsylvania State University is concerned with how the automotive engineering curriculum has neglected engineering problems with immense human welfare implications -- such as vehicle emissions and vehicle safety. Meyer points out that the development of automobile engineering has been overwhelmingly a proving ground, cut-and-try process.

For example, the theoretical study of engines or vehicle handling and braking bas lagged far behind the engineering applications. This deficiency makes empirical findings less complete, reduces their predictive value and limits the advance of automotive engineering.

The creative work published on the theoretical aspects of automotive technology-from tires to engines to vehicle dynamics -- has for many years been far greater at European universities and technical institutes than that coming from American academic institutions or the American automobile industry. The European research has long been the vanguard of the automotive engineering discipline.

The automobile companies have been wary of the possible implications of independent automotive research centers at universities. Such projects could become alternative sources of information about automobile technology, including the performance of contemporary cars, techniques for making them safer, and detailed data from which to prepare standards for government safety regulation. So far, the industry has had little to worry about; there are no such centers. So long as the professors remain "detached" in their pursuit of knowledge, the automobile companies have found that occasional retainers and educators' conferences at their manufacturing plants are enough to form their university relations policy.

Only one professor, James Ryan of the University of Minnesota, has squarely and persistently challenged the automobile manufacturers to build crashworthy vehicles. Ryan's credentials are impressive. They include creative achievements in industry and a thirty-year academic career during which he invented numerous devices, the most famous of which was the flight recorder that is now standard equipment for all jet transports. His distinction is not just one of intellect, but of courage and a professional commitment to engineering responsibility. On many occasions, in spite of frail health, he strapped himself into special deceleration carts and had himself driven into a wall to test his designs for reducing the forces of collisions. For fourteen years, until his retirement in 1963 because of a rheumatic heart condition, Ryan investigated and tested automobiles designed to prevent injuries to occupants during collisions. With a total budget of about $140,000, he developed automatic seat belts, hydraulic shock-absorbing bumpers, a large padded steering post with a short-travel absorber, a retracting steering-wheel rim for the driver, and a dashboard recessed under the windshield in front of the passenger. He tested all these designs in dozens of collision impacts, carefully recording the data from each test. His chief contribution was the energy-absorbing bumper. On November 13, 1957, accompanied by a graduate student, Ryan got into a 1956 Ford car, fitted with this bumper, at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The car was driven into a solid crash barricade at twenty miles per hour, with no injuries resulting to the passengers or the vehicle. In March 1961 a volunteer, Peter Schoeck, rode a cart into a wall at twenty-five miles per hour and suffered no injuries. Although a barrier crash at forty miles per hour generates four times more energy than a crash at twenty miles per hour, Ryan was set in his intention to prove that with refinements of his energy-absorbing designs, a collision at the forty-mile speed would result in no more than superficial injury. His funds and his health ran out before he could do so.

The response of automobile company engineers to Ryan's work was either to ignore it, or to scorn and ridicule him. In the classic pose of engineers reflecting corporate policies, they leveled criticisms about his bumper in a pejorative vein not at all characteristic of science. Every engineering authority outside of the automobile industry. considers Ryan's work to be an important contribution to vehicle safety. A Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory document stated in 1965: "Among the various proposed devices for injury attenuation in automobile crashes, the concept of an energy-absorbing front bumper presents the most favorable opportunity for a direct application of analytical and experimental techniques. It is noteworthy that the majority of both verbal and written criticism [there was only one written reference, a one-hundred word memo without data by GM's Kenneth Stonex] of Professor Ryan's experimentation are leveled at faults in his design, rather than at the basic principle of a controlled rate of energy absorption. In fact, it is sometimes claimed, without substantiating proof or evidence, that the sheet metal on modern automobiles is 'equivalent' to Ryan's bumper for the energy absorption function. However, Ryan's experimental results indicate distinct benefits, when compared with the corresponding frontal-collision responses of a 'standard' automobile, in the forms of a reduced peak vehicle deceleration and reduced peak seat-belt loads on the occupants."

The reception the industry gave Ryan's work illustrates how futile it is to expect that engineering contributions to recognized problems in collision safety will affect the automobile makers' product policy. Ernest Cunningham, editor of Design News, made the relevant distinction in 1960: "I do not question the ability of automotive designers. They can improve design safety. I question the moral honesty of the executive management responsible for policy direction, which year after year ignores design safety."

The lesson of many years is plain. The liberation of the engineering imagination for automotive safety cannot take place within the automobile industry. Nor, apparently, can it be stimulated to overcome internal corporate resistance by such outside contributions as Professor Ryan's. The remaining alternative is the creation of an independent technical capability outside the industry which sees vehicle safety as an engineering problem to be solved by engineering solutions, unfettered by industry constraints, secrecy, and sophistry.

Because of the efforts of New York State Senator Edward Speno and his automotive consultant, Henry Wakeland, the first positive step toward this objective has been taken. Their efforts resulted in an overwhelming vote by the New York legislature for the passage of a bill authorizing a feasibility study of a prototype safety car program. The bill, with a $100,000 appropriation, was signed by Governor Rockefeller on July 15, 1965.

Should the feasibility study result in the launching of the safety car program in 1966, it will be the first attempt to bring automotive safety technology within the mainstream of the modem systems analysis that has been used with such success In attaining aerospace missions. It is this level of technological capability which makes the disingenuous efforts of the automobile industry in safety appear so old-fashioned. As the achievements of space and defense technology reveal, missions today need only to be defined and financed in order to be performed. Now for the first time a state government is considering the purchase of such a performed mission in order to exercise its responsibility of applying the most effective measures to reduce casualties on the highway.

The Speno-Wakeland program will cost three to five million dollars-about the price of the latest jet fighter plane. For this modest expenditure three primary goals are anticipated: (1) the research, design, construction, and testing of several prototype cars embodying all feasible safety features and suitable for mass production, (2) a complete set of performance requirements and tests supported by full technical rationale on the basis of which the legislature can adopt safety standards and (3) complete public disclosure of design drawings, construction specifications, and knowledge, together with tooling requirements and cost analysis for limited mass production.

Two longer-range objectives of the program are the establishment of clear performance criteria that will enable motorists to judge the relative safety levels of the cars they purchase, and the provision of detailed data and designs for any manufacturer to utilize. It is hoped that competition for safety, so long avoided by the giant automobile companies acting jointly, will be stimulated in this manner.

The noble attainments which Wakeland, as director of the New York State Safety Car Project, has set for himself recall the comment of Dr. J. Douglas Brown, dean of the faculty at Princeton University: "The central attribute of a learned profession is responsibility, not for a segmented detail of a total problem, but for an effective solution of the total problem. This means for the profession of engineering that the days are past when each specialist can withdraw into his specialty and become a servant of someone else's grand design.... If engineers can design space ships to go to the moon, why can't they design a safer automobile?"



1. ASA estimates its own prestige in this way: ''There is general understanding that ASA operates in the public interest. An example will illustrate the significance of this impartiality. Years ago, an association had difficulty in getting its safety standard accepted by a number of states as the basis for state safety regulations. The standard was technically sound. But apparently it was considered a special-interest group pursuing its own commercial motives. The standard was then submitted to ASA and was subsequently approved without changes as an American Standard. As such, it was accepted by the states without objection."

2. SAE also owns shares in several petroleum and tire manufacturing companies whose products are obviously integral to the automobile over which the society exercises its standardizing functions.
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:46 pm

Chapter 6: The Stylists: It's the Curve That Counts

The importance of the stylist's role in automobile design is frequently obscured by critics whose principal tools are adjectives. The words are familiar: stylists build "insolent chariots," they deal with tremendous trifles to place on "Detroit Iron." Or, in the moralist's language, the work of the stylists is "decadent, wasteful, and superficial."

The stylists' work cannot be dismissed so glibly. For however transitory or trivial their visible creations may be on the scale of human values, their function has been designated by automobile company top management as the prerequisite for maintaining the annual high volume of automobile sales -- no small assignment in an industry that has a volume of at least twenty billion dollars every year.

It is the stylists ,who are responsible for most of the annual model change which promises the consumer "new" automobiles. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that this "newness" is almost entirely stylistic in content and that engineering innovation is restricted to a decidedly secondary role in product development.

In the matter of vehicle safety, this restriction bas two main effects. First, of the dollar amount that the manufacturer is investing in a vehicle, whatever is spent for styling cannot be spent for engineering. Thus, the costs of styling divert money that might be devoted to safety. Second, stylistic suggestions often conflict with engineering ideas, and since the industry holds the view that "seeing is selling; style gets the priority.

Styling's precedence over engineering safety is well illustrated by this statement in a General Motors engineering journal: "The choice of latching means and actuating means, or handles, is dictated by styling requirements. Changes in body style will continue to force redesign of door locks and handles." Another feature of style's priority over safety shows up in the paint and chrome finishes of the vehicle, which, while they provide a shiny new automobile for the dealer's floor, also create dangerous glare. Stylists can even be credited with overall concepts that result in a whole new variety of hazard. The hard-top convertible and the pillarless models, for example, were clearly the products of General Motors styling staff.

Engineering features that are crucial to the transportation function of the vehicle do exert some restraining influence on styling decisions. A car must have four tires, and though the stylists may succeed shortly in coloring them, it is unlikely that aromatic creampuffs will replace the rubber. But conflicts between style and traditional engineering features are not often resolved in the latter's favor. For example, rational design of the instrument panel does not call for yearly change or recurring variety. Yet the stylists have had their way and at the same time have met management's demands for the interchangeability of components between different car makes. In one instance the 1964 Oldsmobile used exactly the same heater control as the 1964 Buick. In one brand it was placed in a horizontal position; in the other it was used vertically, With this technique, four separate and "different" instrument panels were created for each division.

This differentiating more and more about less and less has reached staggering proportions, In 1957 the Fisher body division produced for the five General Motors car divisions more than 75 different body styles with 450 interior soft trim combinations and a huge number of exterior paint combinations. By 1963 this output proliferated to 140 body styles and 843 trim combinations. Different designs for what General Motors styling chief Harley Earl called "dynamic obsolescence" must be created for many elements of the car: front ends, rear ends, hoods, ornaments, rear decks and rear quarter panels, tail lamps, bumper shades, rocker panels, and the latest items being offered in an outburst of infinite variation -- wheel covers and lugs.

These styling features form the substance of sales promotion and advertising, The car makers' appeals are emotional; they seek to inspire excitement, aesthetic pleasure, and the association of the glistening model in its provocative setting with the prospect's most far-reaching personal visions and wish-fulfillment. This approach may seem flighty, but the industry has learned that the technique sells cars to people who have no other reason to buy them with such frequency.

In recent years, campaigns saturated with the "style sell" have moved on to bolder themes. A 1964 advertisement for the Chevrolet Chevelle said, "We didn't just make the Chevelle beautiful and hope for the best.... If you think all we had in mind was a good-looking car smaller than the Chevrolet and bigger than Chevy II, read on," Curved side windows, the ad continued, are not just for appearance, "they slant way in for easy entry and don't need bulky space-wasting doors to roll down into." In addition, Chevelle's "long wide hood looks nice, too," because of all that goes under it-"a wide choice of Six and V-8 engines,"

A Buick advertisement listed a number of regular vehicle features and commented, "You don't really need these, but how can you resist them?"

In Motor Trend magazine, a publication not addressed to "hot rodders" but to well-informed car hobbyists, the headline of a Plymouth advertisement read, "This is a status symbol." Its final paragraph read, "Plymouth Satellite's a decidedly undemocratic machine. Power-hungry people are the ones it really goes for."

Such advertisements are anything but hidden and subliminal persuaders. To turn the promotion of a transportation machine into an appeal so far removed from the functional quality of that machine, and to do so with commercial success, is an impressive, if disturbing, achievement in applied social science. It is an achievement made possible in large part by the amazing rise of the stylist in the hierarchy of automobile company management.

The stylist did not carve out his own role: it was waiting for him In the late twenties, at the death of the Model T Ford. For years after introducing his Model T in 1909, Henry Ford did very well selling cars to Americans, giving them "any color so long as it was black." Going into the twenties, the Ford held a commanding lead over its numerous competitors. The twenties was the crucial decade for the kind of automobile the public was to be sold in future years and for the industry that was going to produce it. During the first half of that decade, the mechanical features of the automobile-the power plant, drive train, and running gear-achieved engineering maturity and became mo;" reliable. A stronger chassis frame and a passenger cabin were developed, and the suspension system improved the security and comfort of travel. Important assembly line production problems were overcome, and this permitted more uniform and efficient output. In other words, car companies were no longer forced to appeal to their customers with the kind of fundamental assurance that an early ad carried: "It gets you there and it brings you back." In 1925, 3,735,171 passenger cars were sold, compared with 1,905,560 in 1920.

In 1927, for the first time since it introduced the Model T, Ford lost its sales lead to General Motors, never again to regain it. In that year the 1927 La Salle became the first car to be "styled" -- by Harley Earl, who had joined General Motors a year earlier. In response, Henry Ford came out with his "re-styled" Model A. The era of styling began.

At first the stylist was little more than a decorator of the trim and color of the basic body, after its size, shape, and materials had been determined by the engineers and approved by management. The change in emphasis from mechanical to styling features was explained by a leading stylist, Charles Jordan: "For economic reasons, the mechanical assemblies couldn't be frequently changed, since no sales appeal lay in changing them when the result had no dramatic effect on performance. This evolutionary engineering of the car's functional parts tended to promote near-sameness in the products of all major competitors. This, in turn, opened the eyes and ears of company management to the arguments of the men who could provide real visible change under these conditions -- the stylists."

Another General Motors stylist, Vincent Kaptur, Jr., described the cars of the late twenties as having become more than cars. They expressed "status, power, fun, glamour, and freedom. The comforts, desires, and whims of the human being took precedence over the machine."

Actually, the problem the automobile industry was grappling with was one of maintaining a sales pace every year for a product that lasts for nearly a decade. Up to a point, a new invention like the automobile can show rising sales by simply meeting the demand for transportation. At that saturation point, however, the demand becomes less and less responsive to price reduction (the Model T had gone as low as $290) and functional improvement. A satiety threshold sets in that is similar to the limits which govern the consumer demand for food. But an emotional demand can be exploited for a much higher curve on the sales chart. There has never been established a human quota for "status, power, fun, glamour, and freedom." Thus the second stage in the evolution of a consumer product is reached: the time for catering to buyers' wants instead of simply to their needs.

General Motors has been the most aggressive advocate of styling. The first distinct styling section was organized in 1927 under Harley Earl. It was called "The Art and Colour Section." At first, the stylists' position was not secure when it came to disagreements with engineers. Earl's first contributions, slanted windshields and thin comer-pillars, had to be justified as "improving visibility," But by the late thirties Earl's group became the "General Motors styling section," and he was elevated to a vice presidency, indicating that the stylist's function was equal in importance to the work of the engineering, legal, company public relations, and manufacturing departments. The styling departments went through similar developments in other automobile companies. The engineer's authority over the design of the automobile was finished. As Charles Jordan of General Motors said, "Previously, functional improvement or cost reduction was a good reason for component redesign, but [in the thirties] the engineer had to learn to appreciate new reasons for redesigns." In a paper delivered before the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1962, Jordan demonstrated how the importance of the stylist has continued to grow when he urged that the word "styling" be replaced by the word "designer." Jordan said that the "designer" (that is, the stylist) is "the architect of the car, the coordinator of all the elements that make up the complete car, and the artist who gives it form. He stands at the beginning, his approach to and responsibility for the design of the vehicle is parallel to that of an architect of a building." An observer might wonder what was left for the engineer to do but play the part of a technical minion. Jordan ended his address by looking into the future. He foresaw changes in the automobile industry that he described as "drastic and far-reaching." He listed eleven questions in advanced research inquiry for which the styling research and the advanced vehicle design sections were working to find answers. Not one concerned collision protection.

Other manufacturers have not stated such a dominant role for the stylist, though they agree that the automobile will continue to be the major industrial art form in our society. Gene Bordinat, vice president and director of styling for Ford Motor Company said, "Styling serves to make the public aware that here is a new product, with improvements in materials, components and mechanical design-features that might be hidden to anyone but a mechanic or an engineer. People want to know about these things. And if they buy the car, they don't want its best features to be concealed. They want identification where it is visible to one and all. It's the same sort of urge that causes some girls to wear tight sweaters."

That urge to make its assets visible was certainly the central motivation behind the development of the car that created the most dramatic success story in Mr. Bordinat's own company. The introduction, the promotion, and the success of Ford's Mustang was the climactic triumph in the advancement of the stylist to the level of pre-eminence in the industry. The stylist in this case was helped by another new tool: market research. For the mass psychological phenomenon of the Mustang began with a market analysis that discovered even such details as how many college students wanted bucket seats for "first dates" (42%). It moved on, after Ford's decision that the advance surveys had identified a "real market," to advance publicity. The Mustang was to be "a new breed of horse." Both Time and Newsweek, for the first time devoted simultaneous cover stories to a new automobile.

Even before the press coverage and massive advertising campaigns were under way, Ford began receiving thousands of orders from people who had never even seen the Mustang. On the day the car was introduced, almost four million people went to Ford dealers to look at it. Ford soon found that it could not keep up with the huge and increasing demand.

There is little doubt that never before had there been such an intense, immediate identification by so many people with a vehicle. Their immediate involvement with the "wild Mustang" paralleled in some ways the animism in certain primitive tribes, which see inanimate objects like trees as possessing animate qualities. Letters from early buyers of the Mustang revealed even other connections. One woman wrote to the company to confide that the "Mustang is as exciting as sex." A woman from St. Louis maintained, "Yes, it is true that blondes have more fun; but now I'm convinced that blondes have more fun in a new Mustang." A massive "after-market" sprang up quickly, anxious to be part of the Mustang boom. The American Racing Equipment Company advertised its aluminum sport wheels with the headline: "Mustangs are meant to be wild. Don't tame them with ordinary wheels!"


Ford had an explanation of the overwhelmingly favorable verdict of the public. Lee Iacocca, the executive in charge of the Mustang project, cited his own pre-production analysis: "People would want this car because it offers them status at low cost ... because it satisfied in one package their need for basic transportation and their desire for comfort, style, handling, and a choice in performance capabilities," Ford's marketing manager, Frank Zimmerman, Jr., added some comments that Iacocca, as "father of the Mustang" could not make with modesty. Ford had been convinced, Mr. Zimmerman said, that the Mustang would have a stable market and would not be just a fad. He said that the car had an emotional appeal, that people reacted to it personally -- a kind of "Mustang spirit."

What Ford had produced, in fact, was the stylist's dream. The product planning committee, working closely with the stylists, had chosen the prototype and had approved the basic sheet metal and two body styles -- before it informed the development engineers at Ford. Sheet metal, glass, bumpers and moldings of the vehicle were new, while the chassis, engine, suspension and driveline components were copies of Ford's Falcon and the Fairlane models.


The goal of distinctiveness had been achieved in what Bordinat called "the battles of the inch," He gave as an example: "The close-fitting rear bumper was essential to the lithe and lovely look. Here the battle of dimensions was waged over fractions of an inch. If the gap between bumper and sheet metal had become an inch greater, the resultant effect would have detracted from the appearance of the entire vehicle," Other little differences that collectively made "all the difference" to Bordinat and his staff included simple lines with little ornamentation, single headlights, taillights with a vertical pattern, pointed fenders, slimmer bumpers, a small, cropped grill and "roll-under" to expose the wheels and tires for a more "gutty" look. The overall profile was as recognizable as the 1946 Studebaker-long, low hood, close-coupled passenger cabin, and a short rear deck.

After such a stylistic triumph there was little left for the engineer to do to the Mustang. The independent automobile evaluation magazine, Road Test, described the car as "a hoked-up Falcon with inadequate brakes, poor handling, and marvelous promotion." Their report, based on careful road testing, also said, "Like most American cars, the Mustang abounds with new and startling engineering features carried over from 1910." The magazine cited the "very bad" glare from windshield wiper arms and blades, and warned that its soft shock control could be dangerous on high speed diagonal railroad crossings, where the vehicle moves onto the road abruptly as the springs reach the limit of their travel. The magazine further described the Mustang as having "rear-axle hop and instability." Road Test advised Mustang owners, "With heavy duty suspensions the car is safer, but a severe ride penalty is paid, which would be unnecessary if some advertising dollars were spent for advanced, independent rear suspension."

Steve Wilder, an automobile expert, wrote an article for Car Life entitled, "Taming the Wild Mustang." In it he described the Mustang chassis as "the quintessence of what's generally wrong with American cars. It's a heavy-nosed blunderbuss with a teenage rear suspension." Among his dozens of indictments was this observation: "If you hit a bump heeled over, the suspension immediately bottoms out, the tire loses its already tenuous grip, and the Mustang jumps to the side like a frisky colt."

Neither the public appraisal, nor Ford's own explanation of its success, nor even the writings of automobile experts addressing the buffs take into account one piece of Mustang history. In January 1963, over a year before the Mustang made its public appearance, Mr. R. C. Lunn, a Ford engineer, delivered a technical paper to the Society of Automotive Engineers on the subject of an experimental model of the Mustang which was being displayed in various parts of the country. Mr. Lunn's comments were remarkably candid. They showed a glimpse of what the industry could do in the elementary stages of safety design. Lunn included references to the following features incorporated in the operational model: a "fail-safe" dual braking system, integrated headrests to prevent or minimize neck and spinal injuries, a roll-bar to strengthen the roof structure in the event of roll-overs, a steering column preventing rearward displacement into the driver during a front-end collision, a collapsible steering shaft, provision for shoulder harness and lap belts, strongly anchored seats, and bucket seats with lateral holding power. In the production-model Mustang which was introduced in April, 1964 (and of which nearly half a million were sold in twelve months) every one of these features had been eliminated.

A vast corporate effort, keyed to stylistic features, had built a new vehicle. The result was impressive brand-name recognition and soaring sales. The compromise in this achievement was that new or improved automotive engineering for safety once again took a back seat.


The Mustang is a classic case of styling imperatives superseding engineering development in the total concept of car design. But long before the Mustang's pyrotechnical introduction to the public, the stylists' control over the design of front- and rear-end appearance and exterior sheet metal created serious pedestrian hazards that never were permitted to fall within the concern of the engineers.

Senator Ribicoff raised the issue directly with Arjay Miller, president of Ford, during the 1965 Senate hearings on automobile safety. "Mr. Miller," he said, "one of the problems we have is the pedestrian. Very little has been said of the pedestrian. There are about 500,000 pedestrians injured; 8,000 pedestrians are killed every year. [1] Much of the injury and death is caused by sharp edges on automobiles-hood ornaments, fins-all these sharp features you have on cars. Do you ever take the pedestrian into account when you design automobiles?"

Mr. Miller replied, "Very definitely, Senator. I am on the styling committee and this question never fails to be raised before any styling is approved, and furthermore, it is in the knowledge of the stylists and the engineers at the time the vehicle is designed and styled."

The most charitable estimate that can be made of this statement is that it is utterly lacking in candor. If Senator Ribicoff had pointed out that his own Mustang -- even more than other Ford models -- had a hood edge that was sharp enough to act as a chopper, Mr. Miller might have had to face specific charges. He would not have been able to refer for defense of the Ford design to Gene Bordinat, Ford's chief stylist. In the October 1964 issue of Automotive Industries, Mr. Bordinat had approvingly described the Lincoln Continental's flush-mounted parking lights in the "leading edges of the blade-like front fenders."

The callousness of the stylists about the effects of their creations on pedestrians is seen clearly in the case of William Mitchell, chief stylist at General Motors and the principal creator of the Cadillac tail fin. This sharp, rising fin was first introduced in the late forties, soaring in height and prominence each year until it reached a grotesque peak in 1959 and gradually declining thereafter until it was finally eliminated in the 1966 models. To understand how a man could devise and promote such a potentially lethal protuberance, it is necessary to understand the enthusiasm of Mr. Mitchell, who frequently confides to interviewers that he has "gasoline in his blood." His vibrancy in conversation revolves around the concepts of "movement," "excitement,"' and "flair."' Samples of his recent statements are illustrative: "When you sat behind the wheel, you looked down that long hood, and then there Were two headlight shapes, and then two fender curves -- why, you felt excited just sitting there. A car should be exciting." Or, "Cars will be more clearly masculine or feminine," and "For now we deal with aesthetics ... that indefinable, intangible quality that makes all the difference." Mr. Mitchell's reported view of safety is that it is the driver's responsibility to avoid accidents, and that if cars were made crashworthy, the "nuts behind the wheel" would take even greater chances.

The world of Mr. Mitchell centers around the General Motors technical center, where in surroundings of lavish extravagance he presides over a staff of more than 1,400 styling specialists. It is a world of motion, color, contour, trim, fabric. To illustrate the degree of specialization involved, one color selector holds 2,888 metal samples of colors; glass- enclosed studios, surrounding verdant roof gardens, are specially designed so that colors may be matched under varying lighting conditions. In such an environment, it is easy for Mr. Mitchell to believe that "Eighty-five per cent of all the information we receive is visual." His two favorite sayings are, "Seeing is selling; and "The shape of things shape man."

The matter of Cadillac tail fins, however, transcends the visual world of Mr. Mitchell. Fins have been felt as well as seen, and felt fatally when not seen. In ways that should have been anticipated by Mr. Mitchell, these fins have "shaped" man.

In the year of its greatest height, the Cadillac fin bore an uncanny resemblance to the tail of the stegosaurus, a dinosaur that had two sharp rearward-projecting horns on each side of the tail. In 1964 a California motorcycle driver learned the dangers of the Cadillac tail fin. The cyclist was following a heavy line of traffic on the freeway going toward Newport Harbor in Santa Ana. As the four-lane road narrowed to two lanes, the confusion of highway construction and the swerving of vehicles in the merging traffic led to the Cadillac's sudden stop. The motorcyclist was boxed in and was unable to turn aside. He hit the rear bumper of the car at a speed of about twenty miles per hour, and was hurled into the tail fin, which pierced his body below the heart and cut him all the way down to the thigh bone in a large circular gash. Both fin and man survived this encounter.

The same was not true in the case of nine-year-old Peggy Swan. On September 29, 1963, she was riding her bicycle near her home in Kensington, Maryland. Coming down Kensington Boulevard she bumped into a parked car in a typical childhood accident. But the car was a 1962 Cadillac, and she hit the tail fin, which ripped into her body below the throat. She died at Holy Cross Hospital a few hours later of thoracic hemorrhage.

Almost a year and a half earlier, Henry Wakeland, the independent automotive engineer, had sent by registered mail a formal advisory to General Motors and its chief safety engineer, Howard Gandelot The letter was sent in the spirit of the Canons of Ethics for Engineers, and began with these words: "This letter is to insure that you as an engineer and the General Motors Corporation are advised of the hazard to pedestrians which exists in the sharp-pointed tail fins of recent production 1962 Cadillac automobiles and other recent models of Cadillacs. The ability of the sharp and pointed tail fins to cause injury when they contact a pedestrian is visually apparent" Wakeland gave details of two recent fatal cases that had come to his attention. In one instance, an old woman in New York City had been struck by a Cadillac which was rolling slowly backward after its power brakes failed. The blow of the tail Bu had killed her. In the other case, a thirteen- year-old Chicago boy, trying to catch a fly ball on a summer day in 1961, had run into a 1961 Cadillac fin, which pierced his heart.

Wakeland said, "An obviously apparent hazard should not be allowed to be included in an automobile because there are only a few circumstances under which the hazard would cause accident or injury. When any large number of automobiles which carry the hazard are in use, the circumstances which translate the hazard into accident or injury will eventually arise. Since it is technically possible to add [fins to automobiles] it is also technically possible to remove them, either before or after manufacture."

Howard Gandelot replied to Wakeland, saying that only a small number of pedestrian injuries due to fins or other ornamentation had come to the attention of General Motors, adding that there "always is a likelihood of the few unusual types of accidents."

The lack of complaints is a standard defense of the automobile companies when they are asked to explain hazardous design features. Certainly no company has urged the public to make com plaints about such injuries as described by Wakeland. Nor has any company tried to find out about these injuries either consistently or through a pilot study. Moreover, the truth of the statement that "very few complaints" are received by the automobile companies is a self- serving one that is not verifiable by any objective source or agency outside the companies. Also, it must be remembered that since there is no statistical reporting system on this kind of accident -- whether the system is sponsored by the government or the insurance industry -- there is no publicly available objective source of data concerning such accidents.

As an insider, Gandelot knew that the trend of Cadillac tail fin design was to lower the height of the fin. He included in his reply to Wakeland this "confidential information" about the forthcoming 1963 Cadillac: "The fins were lowered to bring them closer to the bumper and positioned a little farther forward so that the bumper face now affords more protection."

Gandelot's comment touches on an important practice. The introduction, promotion, and finally the "phasing out" of external hazards is purely a result of stylistic fashions. For example, a few years ago sharp and pointed horizontal hood ornaments were the fad. Recent models avoid these particular ornament designs, not for pedestrian safety but to conform to the new "clean look" that is the trademark of current styling. The deadly Cadillac tail fin has disappeared for the same reason. New styles bring new hazards or the return of old ones.

Systematic engineering design of the vehicle could minimize or prevent many pedestrian injuries. The majority of pedestrian-vehicle collisions produce injuries, not fatalities. Most of these collisions occur at impact speed of under twenty-five miles per hour, and New York City data show that in fatality cases about twenty-five per cent of the collisions occurred when the vehicles involved were moving at speeds below fourteen miles per hour. It seems quite obvious that the external design and not just the speed of the automobile contributes greatly to the severity of the injuries inflicted on the pedestrian. Yet the external design is so totally under the unfettered control of the stylist that no engineer employed by the automobile industry has ever delivered a technical paper concerning pedestrian collision. Nor have the automobile companies made any public mention of any crash testing or engineering safety research on the problem.

But two papers do exist in the technical literature, one by Henry Wakeland and the other by a group of engineers at the University of California in Los Angeles. Wakeland destroyed the lingering myth that when a pedestrian is struck by an automobile it does not make any difference which particular design feature hits him. He showed that heavy vehicles often strike people without causing fatality, and that even in fatal cases, the difference between life and death is often the difference between safe and unsafe design features. Wakeland's study was based on accident and autopsy reports of about 230 consecutive pedestrian fatalities occurring in Manhattan during 1958 and early 1959. In this sample, case after case showed the victim's body penetrated by ornaments, sharp bumper and fender edges, headlight hoods, medallions, and fins. He found that certain bumper configurations tended to force the adult pedestrian's body down, which of course greatly increased the risk of the cars running over him. Recent models, with bumpers shaped like sled runners and sloping grill work above the bumpers, which give the appearance of "leaning into the wind; increase even further the car's potential for exerting down-and-under pressures on the pedestrian.

The UCLA study, headed by Derwyn Severy, consisted of experimenting with dummies to produce force and deflection data on vehicle-pedestrian impacts. The conclusion was that "the front end geometry and resistance to deformation of a vehicle striking a pedestrian will have a major influence on the forced movement of the pedestrian following the impact" These design characteristics are considered crucial to the level of injury received, since subsequent contact with the pavement may be even more harmful than the initial impact. As additional designs for protections the Severy group recommends the use of sheet metal that collapses, greater bumper widths, and override guards to sweep away struck pedestrians from the front wheels.

If the automobile companies are seeking more complaints about the effects of styling in producing pedestrian hazards, they might well refer to a widely used textbook on preventive medicine written by Doctors Hilleboe and Larimore. Taking note of the many tragic examples of unnecessarily dangerous design, the results of which "are seen daily in surgical wards and autopsy tables," the authors concluded that "if one were to attempt to produce a pedestrian-injuring mechanism, one of the most theoretically efficient designs which might be developed would closely approach that of the front end of some present-day automobiles.


The ultimate evidence that the work of the stylist is anything but trivial is to be found in the effect styling bas had on the economic aspects of the automobile industry.

General Motors, which controls over fifty per cent of the automobile market, whenever it introduces and promotes a particular styling feature can compel the other companies to follow suit. The history of the wrap-around windshield, the tail fin, and the hard-top convertible confirms this point. For although the wraparound windshield created visual distortion that shocked the optometry profession, and the tail fin and hard-top designs engendered the dangers discussed earlier, every one of the other automobile companies followed the lead of General Motors in order not to be out of date.

Economists call this phenomenon "protective imitation," but under any name, following suit involved tremendous tooling costs, the curtailment of engineering diversity and innovation, and, most important, the wholesale adoption of features that were intended to please the eye of the driver rather than to protect his life.

George Romney, then the president of American Motors, described the situation aptly when he told the Kefauver Senate antitrust subcommittee in 1958, "It is just like a woman's hat. The automobile business has some of the elements of the millinery industry in it, in that you can make style become the hallmark of modernity ... A wrap-around windshield, through greater sums of money and greater domination of the market, can be identified as being more important than something that improves the whole automobile.... In an industry where style is a primary sales tool, public acceptance of a styling approach can be achieved by the sheer Impact of product volume."

Still the industry has persisted in declaring that it merely "gives the customer what he wants." This hardly squares with Mr. Romney's statement or with the facts. The history of every successful style feature is that it was conceived in one of the automobile company style sections -- often without reference to company engineers, let alone considerations of safety -- and then turned over to marketing specialists for repetitive, emotional exploitation until it was an entrenched, accepted "fashion."

Entrenched, that is, until the need to make the customer dissatisfied with that fashion sent the styling staffs back to their drawing boards. The principle that governs then is in direct contradiction to the give-them-what-they-want defense. In the words of Gene Bordinat of Ford, the stylist at work must "take the lead in establishing standards of taste." That, in fact, is what they have done.

The follow-the-leader spiral of styling Innovations has had other profound effects. One of the most important results is that by concentrating model "changes" in the area of styling, the manufacturers have focused consumer attention on those features of the automobile that are the most likely subject of "persuasive" rather than "informational" appeals. As in the fashion industry, dealing with emotions rather than dealing with the intellect has had the result that the car makers have rarely been threatened with consumer sovereignty over the automobile. On the contrary, car Manufacturers have exerted self-determined control over the products they offer. This control is reflected in another statement from Mr. Mitchell, who said, "One thing today is that we have more cars than we have names. Maybe the public doesn't want all these kinds, but competition makes it necessary."

The narrowing of the difference between automobiles to minor styling distinctions is not the only unhealthy result of the stylists' dominance. Even more discouraging has been the concomitant drying-up of engineering ingenuity. As the stylists have steadily risen to pre-eminence, the technological imagination of automotive engineers has slowed to a point where automobile company executives themselves have deplored the lack of innovation. Ford vice president Donald Frey recognized the problem clearly when he said in an address delivered in January 1964, "I believe that the amount of product innovation successfully introduced into the automobile is smaller today than in previous times and is still falling. The automatic transmission [adopted in 1939 on a mass-production basis] was the last major innovation of the industry."

The head of Mr. Frey's company, Henry Ford II, seemed troubled by the same question in his address to the same group. He said, "When you think of the enormous progress of science over the last two generations, it's astonishing to realize that there is very little about the basic principles of today's automobile that would seem strange and unfamiliar to the pioneers of our industry.... What we need even more than the refinement of old ideas is the ability to develop new ideas and put them to work."

Neither of these automobile executives, of course, makes the obvious connection that if an industry devotes its best efforts and its largest investment to styling concepts, it must follow that new ideas in engineering -- and safety -- will be tragically slow in coming.



1. Drs. James Goddard and William Haddon have estimated that at least four per cent of all vehicles, at some time during their use, strike and injure pedestrians.
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:51 pm


Chapter 7: The Traffic Safety Establishment: Damn the Driver and Spare the Car

"Roads, laws, and cars are inanimate of themselves. They cannot give-or-take-life. It is people who animate highway transportation; people who use the roads -- obey or do not obey the laws -- drive their cars carefully or carelessly." The speaker was H. E. Humphreys, Jr., chairman of the U. S. Rubber Company. In reiterating the basic creed of the private traffic safety movement, he bore down hard each time he said "people." Mr. Humphreys was addressing the tenth Highway Transportation Congress in Washington, D. C., in his capacity as chairman of the National Highway Users Conference, a lobby group. The date was May 6, 1964, but the words could have been uttered in 1924, the year this country's approach to highway safety was launched -- to become later an ideology guarded and perpetuated by a network of trade associations, tax exempt organizations, and other groups professing an interest in traffic safety.

In 1924, prompted by the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Safety Council, Herbert Hoover -- then Secretary of Commerce -- called the first of two national conferences on street and highway safety. Out of these conferences, sponsored and financed by private funds, came a number of recommendations dealing with statistics, education, public relations, traffic control, and a model uniform vehicle code. Underlying all these efforts was the view that highways and vehicles were built about as well as could be expected under existing technology, and that traffic accidents were therefore traceable to willful, careless, irresponsible, or incompetent drivers. The problems of highway safety were considered essentially to be the result of the driver's behavior.

The 1924 and 1926 conferences were dominated by business leaders concerned about the tragic by-product of a new, fast-growing mode of transportation. "The three E's" -- Enforcement, Education, and Engineering -- became the slogan for a "balanced" traffic safety program. It was not long before the public was given to understand that "Enforcement" and "Education" meant the motorist, while "Engineering" meant the highway. The only reference to the vehicle itself pertained to its maintenance by the owner and the desirability of periodic inspection. In the subsequent decade, vehicle design was not an issue, apart from the insistent pleas and writings of a Detroit physician, Dr. Claire Straith, and a few critical insurance men.

During the 1930's the automobile death toll was the subject of some dramatic journalism, the most noteworthy being J. C. Furnas's article "And Sudden Death," which appeared in the October 1935 issue of the Reader's Digest. Millions of reprints of Furnas's piece were circulated which helped to generate public demands that "something be done." In the same year, the Detroit News called on the manufacturers to participate more actively in encouraging safer driving. The National Safety Council approached the automobile industry for financial support of several traffic accident prevention projects. In June 1936, Congress requested that the Bureau of Public Roads (then a part of the Department of Agriculture) make a survey of motor vehicle traffic conditions. The growing demand for action was not lost upon the alert leaders of the automobile industry. The move of events suggested that it was in order for them to take a forceful role in encouraging safer use of automobiles. A pattern of financing and guiding the major voluntary organizations concerned with the subject was established, and continues to the present day.

In January 1936 the Automobile Manufacturers Association announced with fanfare that It would contribute about $450,000 a year for traffic safety activities. That year, grants were awarded to the American Automobile Association, the American Legion, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the National Safety Council, and the National Grange-all for various projects in education, enforcement, and "public support" activities. Three months later, an Automobile Manufacturers Association committee assured the Secretary of Commerce: "The motor industry recognizes its obligation to produce the safest vehicle human ingenuity can devise, and dedicates every laboratory and engineering resource of the industry to that purpose. In addition, the industry is pledged to cooperate with public officials in their efforts to curb accidents. Further, it has, by direct grants of money, energized the expansion of highway safety activities of nine national organizations." It was not long before the automobile industry decided to associate its traffic safety activities with a less obviously commercially tainted organization, and it established the Automotive Safety Foundation in June 1937.

In 1938 the Bureau of Public Roads submitted a six-part report to Congress. This report was written with the help of a business and academic advisory committee and covered the need for better investigation at the accident scene, the deficiencies of state automobile accident reporting, the importance of vehicle inspection, the lack of uniformity in state laws, and the "accident-prone" driver. Nothing was said about vehicle design and construction. What makes the report noteworthy is that present-day programs display no advance in quality and are applied with an extraordinary emphasis on driver behavior -- which is almost always considered apart from vehicle and highway.

Today almost every program is aimed at the driver -- at educating him, exhorting him, watching him, judging him, punishing him, compiling records about his driving violations, and organizing him in citizen support activities. Resources and energy are directed into programs of enforcement, traffic laws, driver education, driver licensing, traffic courts, and vehicle inspection. The reasoning behind this philosophy of safety can be summarized in this way: Most accidents are in the class of driver fault; driver fault is in the class of violated traffic laws; therefore, observance of traffic laws by drivers would eliminate most accidents.

The prevailing view of traffic safety is much more a political strategy to defend special interests than it is an empirical program to save lives and prevent injuries. For "traffic safety" is not just an abstract value to which lip service is paid. In the automobile industry, safety could represent an investment in research, a priority in production design and manufacturing, and a theme of marketing policy. But under existing business values potential safety advances are subordinated to other investments, priorities, preferences, and themes designed to maximize profit. Industry insists on maintaining the freedom to rank safety anywhere it pleases on its list of commercial considerations. In the protection of these considerations the industry supports and fosters the traffic safety policy focused on driver behavior; through lobbying and other close relations with state and municipal administrators the efforts of the automobile manufacturers have resulted not only in the perpetuation of that policy but also in some side effects which help the industry preserve its exclusive control over vehicle design.

For one thing, a driver-oriented traffic safety program does not disrupt the traditional state jurisdiction over traffic safety matters. The industry has worked for many years to maintain state control against any "encroachments" or "interventions" by the federal government. Should the federal government become involved, it might upset the time- tested accommodation which the industry has developed with state administrators and legislators. The saying among automobile men is: "We know the state tiger and what it likes to eat." The federal government might want to see for itself whether the vehicle was really as innocent as automobile publicists have vigorously proclaimed.

Another advantage to the industry in seeing traffic safety in terms of driver responsibility is that the law bas developed in conformity with this emphasis. Thus damage or injury in automobiles is attributed, by definition, to some legal violation by the driver. Traffic laws prescribe how people shall behave so as to avoid accidents on streets and highways. These rules are quite specific, such as those about overtaking or passing a school bus. But there are also general provisions prohibiting "reckless driving" or "driving so as to endanger," which cover almost any situation that is not explicitly cited. Therefore the contributing factors stemming from the vehicle's design can be imputed to the driver. The law embodies an invincible rationale: "He had an accident; therefore, he violated the law." No distinction is made between responsibility for the accident and responsibility for the injury due to unsafe vehicle design or construction. Manslaughter charges are med routinely against drivers; there is yet to be recorded any similar charges against the manufacturers for vehicle defects. The statutes make no provision for including the manufacturer in traffic accident criminal penalties, and it is a rare prosecutor who would proceed against an automobile maker on common-law principles.

Laws that do not adequately reflect reality have predictably distorting consequences. It is to be expected that laws exclusively centered on the motorist will profoundly affect the kind of accident investigation, accident reporting, and insurance rating policy that develops. Accidents are investigated principally by police and investigators representing claimants and insurance companies. The primary purpose of police fact-gathering at the accident scene is to enforce the law, so the policeman's common assumption is driver responsibility. A typical police traffic accident report bas a list of "contributing circumstances" which the officer is to check off: "Speed too fast; failed to yield right of way; drove left of center; improper overtaking; passed stop sign; ran traffic signal; improper lights; had been drinking; and other improper driving." All of these are violations of the law by motorists. No distinction is drawn between the behavior of the driver and the behavior of the vehicle. Insofar as the law is violated, they are one. Thus the driver is heir to all the dangers created by the automobile designers, not only in terms of his bodily exposure but also in terms of legal exposure. The result of this drastic imbalance in the law is the very poor quality of accident investigation in this country. There is great pressure on the police officer to cut his investigation short in order to clear away the damaged car or cars and get traffic moving. He finds little incentive to probe beyond the facile explanation of the accident offered by the catchall categories of driver error on the accident report form. The law does not encourage or provide for conscientious investigation. Consequently enforcement of the law brings no pressure on the car makers to increase the safety of vehicles.

The way traffic law is written and enforced also affects automobile insurance and claims investigation. Civil actions are brought in court on the basis of driver-to-driver or driver-to-passenger confrontations, with police reports and sometimes criminal proceedings (which usually are completed before civil actions come to trial) serving as principal tools of conflict. Since insurance company payments for damage claims are predicated on driver responsibility, insurance rates are almost exclusively based on differences in drivers-accident experience, use of the car, sex, age, marital status, place of residence, and the number of drivers in the family. Were manufacturers made more responsible by law for vehicle behavior in accident and injury causation, the entire actuarial and investigatory apparatus would be forced to consider vehicle engineering factors as an integral part of investigation.

Investigation stops with the driver in the vast majority of cases because our statutes ascribe all responsibilities to the driver. It is legal responsibility that forms the basis for compensation payments. Often, when the responsible agent is missing -- in cases where there is no other driver, or the other driver is not financially responsible -- the most thorough engineering investigations of the vehicle are conducted. Claims against the manufacturer for unsafe design or construction are obliged to proceed on the basis of the common law derived from the heritage of court decisions, not on statutes. The only statute law covering the vehicle simply requires certain basic automotive equipment such as brakes, windshield wipers, directional signals, and lighting systems.

Accident reporting and statistics also reflect the law's emphasis. A major purpose of accident reports is to lay the basis for preventive action, as well as to measure the effect of past accident-prevention efforts. Since the law ignores the cause of injury and concentrates on the cause of accident in terms of driver error, accident reports adhere to this outline. The statistics compiled inevitably emphasize the same point, as exemplified by the National Safety Council's annual proclamation that ninety per cent of all accidents are due to improper driving. To the extent that statistics outline problems, guide remedial action, and inspire or deter public authorities, vehicle design in such a statistical climate is not likely to come in for much attention. It is significant that the special Cornell accident-injury reporting forms request information not required by law -- information which is having important consequences in emphasizing the role of vehicle engineering.

The automobile makers have played an important role in the development of traffic law beyond their conventional advocacy at state legislatures. The industry's presence on the membership roll of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances (NCUTLO) is an impressive display of how automobile companies and their trade associations and front organizations can saturate an organization. The financial and advisory support given the NCUTLO -- which produces a periodically revised Uniform Motor Vehicle Code as a "Guide for State Motor Vehicle Laws" -- is not without results. The code is a place for implementing the automotive lobby's determination to achieve uniformity in vehicle equipment laws throughout the fifty states, without the supervision of the federal government. While the code embraces sound and well-expressed provisions, the attention given the vehicle is an abuse of the integrity which the drafting of model laws has generally attained in the United States. The code is composed of nineteen chapters totaling 194 pages. It is designed as a comprehensive set of motor vehicle laws covering administration, licensing, financial responsibility, and other subjects. Thirty-nine pages are devoted to equipment, inspection, and the size, weight, and load of vehicles.

The provisions of these pages could not have been more solicitous of the manufacturers. Although the code is described by its authors as offering "a sound legal framework within which effective safety programs can be carried out" to "the ultimate service of highway users," not a single provision deals with any vehicle design features prominently associated with injuries suffered in an accident. Although two pages are devoted to rules governing pedestrian behavior, the code has no reference to protruding ornaments and other pedestrian hazards, as do similar statutes in Switzerland and other European nations. The vehicle equipment provisions cover only lighting equipment, brakes, horns, mufflers, mirrors, windshield wipers, Hares, air conditioning equipment, but the code does not establish standards for the operating and crash safety of the basic vehicle structure. Where applicable, the language provides for adherence to standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Performance levels for items such as brakes are written into the code and are well within the limits of existing designs.

The Chapter called "Inspection of Vehicles" recommends the use of the American Standards Association Code D7 On inspection requirements for motor vehicles. Code D7 was written by the automobile industry. The object of D7 is to provide the states with a checklist that will bring the operational adequacy of inspected vehicles somewhere near the level of the vehicles when they left the dealers' showrooms.

The legal structure for traffic safety that exempts motor vehicle design and quality from its purview -- the only transport vehicle so exempted -- has not come about haphazardly. Its evolution has been shaped by a political and propaganda machine directed by the traffic safety establishment. This establishment is not a conspiracy; it does not have to be. As the only organized constituency in traffic safety, one which represents the interests of the automotive and allied industries, it has been more like a great power with no challengers. By championing driver safety and resistance to federal "encroachment," and by providing funds to "sound" recipients, the establishment has enlisted the support or understanding of state and local officials and of volunteer groups and workers.

The dreary quality of traffic safety activities throughout the country year after year can be attributed to the impressive efficiency in the administration of the establishment's ideology. There are no autocratic impositions involved. The practice of going along with industry's way is simply a pleasant way of getting by. There are neither tangible incentives nor countering stimuli to do things in any other way.

An estimated nine million dollars a year is spent by nongovernment organizations and citizen traffic safety councils on national, state, and local levels. Out of this sum, about $4.2 million is expended by state and local safety councils accredited to the National Safety Council and supported chiefly by local business contributors. After subtracting the $2.6 million devoted by the National Safety Council to traffic safety services, the remaining $2.2 million goes for the most part to support the traffic safety activities of the so-called national service organizations. The automotive and insurance industries finance almost all the traffic safety work of these service groups -- chiefly, the Auto Industries Highway Committee, the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators, the American Bar Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Commission on Safety Education (of the National Educational Association), and the National Committee on Uniform Laws and Ordinances. Together with the American Automobile Association, which is self-financing; these are the organizations which the National Safety Council describes as "the groups that stimulate public support for traffic safety programs."

The two key sources of funds for these groups are the Automotive Safety Foundation and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both tax-exempt organizations.

The Automotive Safety Foundation (ASF) was founded in June 1937 by four automobile executives. For five years, the Automobile Manufacturers Association contributed all the funds for ASF, but increasingly the AMA has broadened the financial support to include contributions from companies dealing in petroleum, rubber tires, automobile finance, advertising, magazines, glass, steel, as well as from banks, automobile and tire dealers, and asphalt and cement companies and associations. This has been done through a highly successful fund-matching system that not only helps to commit these groups to ASFs mission but also saves the Automobile Manufacturers Association money while it enlarges the total funds over which the AMA possesses complete policy control. In 1963 the AMA contributed half ($764,086) of ASFs income of $1,528,173, which has been roughly the level of the foundation's income for the past few years.

The Automotive Safety Foundation's accomplishment in promoting the automobile industry's traffic safety objective far exceeds what might be expected of such modest finances. Contrary to what its name might imply, the Automotive Safety Foundation has no concern fur the automobile per se; except that it be driven better, maintained properly, and provided with more highways and off-street parking. A recent ASF publication echoes Mr. Humphreys of the U.S. Rubber Company: "Being inanimate, no car, truck or bus can by itself cause an accident any more than a street or highway can do so. A driver is needed to put it into motion -- after which it becomes an extension of his will."

From its very beginning the ASF has been a policy-oriented organization. One of its first projects was the Standard Highway Safety Program for States, which erected two cornerstones for the private traffic movement -- a "balanced program" for accident prevention, and the necessity for official responsibility by state and local officials backed with organized citizen support groups. With refinement and expansion by ASF and other automobile representatives, this program in 1946 was changed to the Action Program for Traffic Safety, which continues to be the blueprint for concerted activity.

The president of the Automotive Safety Foundation, Joseph Mattson, and his assistants maintain close contact with federal officials. ASF headquarters appear to be in Washington primarily to see that Washington does as little as possible in traffic safety beyond that of supporting the "time-tested" state activities. The ASF has various opportunities for observing, influencing, or deterring action in the executive branch. One is its joint financial sponsorship of research projects and conferences with such agencies as the Public Health Service and the Bureau of Public Roads. Through such cooperation the ASF helps guide federal attention away from vehicle design and its relation to deaths and injuries. This kind of cooperation also ingratiates the ASF with some federal administrators who can stretch department budgets to hold more conferences. The mixing of private and public funds and personnel is a recurrent practice of the traffic safety establishment and assures the participation of industry people directly in official programs. The ASF also has often graduated its employees into positions in the Bureau of Public Roads.

Mattson has found his way onto the advisory committee to the U.S. Public Health Service's Division of Accident Prevention in spite of his lack of scientific qualifications to advise the division on its scientific work. The advisory committee to the division is supposed to represent experts, not interest groups. In the Bureau of Public Roads, Mattson is viewed as the veteran spokesman for the automobile industry on traffic safety and as the figure who dominates the President's Committee for Traffic Safety. For ten years Mattson was head of the executive committee of the advisory council to the President's committee. In this capacity, he selected the executive director of the committee, William Foulis, who had been Mattson's employee at the Automotive Safety Foundation. In 1965 Mattson relinquished his committee post to Howard Pyle of the National Safety Council, but no one interpreted this as any diminution of his influence. Behind his retiring, easygoing manner, he remains a person to be reckoned with by the Bureau of Public Roads and its Office of Highway Safety, even in preliminary consideration of traffic safety policy.

Mattson has long been the chief figure among staffs of the private traffic safety groups that are congregated in one section of Washington. Whatever discomfort his influence bas caused others in the movement has not been made public. His conciliatory skills and his why-stir-things-up type of appeal bas succeeded in maintaining a solid consensus within the establishment on all major issues.

Financial data concerning the Automotive Safety Foundation give some indication of the variety of unofficial missions expected of it by the automobile industry in addition to the processing and awarding of grants. A typical year was 1963, when ASF reported contributions totaling $1,528,173, of which $692,890 was disbursed as grants. The expense of distributing this amount was reported to total $826,148, which included $517,603 for salaries and wages; a lump sum of $259,474 was listed under "miscellaneous expenses." That year, the foundation neglected to report officers' salaries individually to the Internal Revenue Service. But in 1962, when they did provide these figures, Mattson received $45,517, and two vice presidents were paid $27,700 and $26,183, plus full reimbursement for expenses. Thus, the compensation of the three top officers alone amounted to one-eighth of the funds disbursed and one-fifteenth of ASF's annual income. This unique foundation spent almost $1.20 on "administration" for every dollar it disbursed in grants.

A 1947 document put out by the foundation gave an indication of how diverse its interests were even at that early date:

In addition to the studies of existing laws, the technicians on the Foundation staff also reviewed hundreds of bills proposed during the current legislative year, and passed along to interested national organizations the facts about those bills which failed to conform in substance with the [uniform vehicle] code and other accepted standards....

The Inter-Industry Highway Safety Committee is another new development. Throughout the country the vehicle, tire and petroleum retailers are in a position to offer valuable support to public officials and to civic groups in carrying on the highway safety program in their own states and communities. State and local groups are being organized throughout the country and already tangible and encouraging results have been reported...

It is not possible in a report of this kind to illustrate pictorially the cooperative activities which the Foundation is conducting with a large number of national organizations. These groups -- women, farmers, veterans, teachers, service clubs and others -- offer enormous potentials in support of safer highway transportation. In each case, however, to make the activity sound and useful, the organization requires the expert direction and guidance which the staff here is able to provide. Financial assistance also is given.

At the present the Automotive Safety Foundation awards grants, most of them on an annual basis, to about thirty groups, including the American Association of Industrial Editors, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the American Bar Association, the American Municipal Association, the Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the Highway Research Board, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of County Engineers, the National Commission on Safety Education, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, the National Grange, the National Safety Council, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, the Northwestern University Traffic Institute, the Yale University Bureau of Highway Traffic, and some dozen other universities for small research projects or fellowships. Even those grants under $10,000 are of considerable consequence to the recipients because of the absence of other backing, either from public or private sources. The fellowships cover a number of subjects concerning highway safety, but never the vehicle itself. The foundation also administers the Alfred P. Sloan Radio and Television Awards for Highway Safety, which go to various radio and television stations throughout the country for constructive programming.

One of the ASF's largest annual grants -- about $140,000 -- goes to form almost the entire support of the Auto Industries Highway Safety Committee (AIHSC), another tax-exempt organization. A project of which AIHSC is especially proud was the distribution of over six million "Man-to-Man and Dad-to-Daughter Good Driver Agreements." These were voluntary pledges signed by father and son or father and daughter wherein the children agreed to drive the family car safely.

AIHSC's principal activity is promoting vehicle inspection, high school driver education, safe holiday travel, adequate off- street parking facilities and better highways, and teen-age traffic safety conferences. These objectives are pursued, AIHSC says, "through contacts with officials charged with the responsibility of public safety on the nation's streets and highways, as well as organizations actively engaged in traffic safety work," and by "serving on national policy-setting committees such as the Advisory Council to the President's Committee for Traffic Safety."


In the automobile insurance industry, the counterpart organization to the Automotive Safety Foundation is the tax-exempt Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It was established in 1959 to bring together under one roof the scattered traffic safety efforts of the Association of Casualty and Surety Companies, the National Association of Automotive Mutual Insurance Companies, and the National Association of Independent Insurers. These three groups represent about five hundred insurance companies.

The traffic safety attitude of IIHS closely parallels that of ASF. For example, in January 1963 IIHS released this explanation of the record traffic accident toll in 1962: "The American public is not supporting the application of the Highway Safety Action Program, the blueprint recognized by traffic experts throughout the country. Officials are not administering the laws and regulations to the extent necessary to reduce traffic accidents. Dangerous confusion exists because of the lack of uniformity of traffic laws and traffic control devices."

IIHS president Russell Brown says that an additional five hundred million dollars of state and local funds are needed annually to support existing programs on a much greater scale and to augment the private budgets of the national service organizations. But neither he nor his organizations literature mentions vehicle design. The issue which appears to motivate the programs financed by IIHS and which makes it so cooperative with automobile industry interests is the threat of federal incursions into state jurisdiction over traffic safety. In almost every address Brown delivers the point is made, sometimes with constitutional embellishments: "In the management of our vast highway transportation system, public policy. must be based on the premise that sovereignty rests with state governments, and that federal and local governments only have those rights that are given to them by sovereign states. Therefore, the focal point for all highway traffic control and safety activities is the state."

The institute's grants are fully consistent with this belief. With a budget totaling $1.7 million in 1964, IIHS provides grants to most of the service organizations funded by ASF, including the National Safety Council, the American Bar Association, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

It also provides assistance to state traffic safety programs, after soliciting a formal request by the governor. This aid takes the form of working with officials in developing safety programs and familiarizing them with other services available through the private traffic safety organizations. Direct financial support to state citizen traffic safety groups is the third activity of IIHS. In 1964, funds were allotted to ten such bodies, including the California Traffic Safety Foundation, the Missouri Safety Council, the New York State Citizens Council on Traffic Safety, and the Texas Safety Association. It is IIHS policy to encourage formation of these citizen units in all states to "influence personal behavior in traffic and create and express public support for official programs."

Plainly, insurance companies would seem to have every incentive to advocate measures for the prevention of loss in order to increase their underwriting profits. Insurance company engineers and inspectors routinely file reports to their superiors recommending as a condition of policy coverage the elimination of hazards on ships, in factories, and at construction sites. The work of the underwriter's laboratories in testing, inspecting, evaluating, and listing manufacturers' products with respect to their safety (especially electrical and fire-prevention equipment), indicates that companies take loss prevention seriously. In addition, premium rates usually have covered the entire risk situation in man-machine situations. Thus, for example, higher rates for fire coverage on factories with less than desirable conditions add an economic incentive for policy-holders to achieve safer conditions.

In automobile insurance, the roles are different. Loss prevention and rate policy deal with the driver and avoid the automobile. Except for the discount for compact cars -- a puzzling actuarial decision in light of their injury record -- neither rating bureaus nor the large independent casualty underwriters have ever filed for approval by state insurance regulatory agencies any rating system covering various design features of automobiles.

For many years the insurance industry has known about and been disturbed by the role of unsafe vehicle design in producing accidents and injuries. Their files contain a secret horde of detailed accident investigations pin-pointing design and construction hazards on particular models that caused deaths and injuries. There are instances where a company, after paying off a claim, has demanded in turn compensation from the offending automobile manufacturer and has obtained a confidential settlement. None of this vehicle design data has ever been publicly reported either by an individual underwriter or on an industry-wide basis. Contrary to every decent tradition of the casualty insurers (going back as far as their design and construction of lighthouses and lifeboats in the early days of the Lloyds group in England), information of life-saving import, which connects vehicle features with statistically or clinically significant accident and injury experience, is being denied to the public, to the companies' own policy-holders, and to the industry's actuaries who could devise a vehicle-rating policy aimed at loss reduction. The same modem data-processing equipment used increasingly to refine the rating of drivers could be applied to the rating of vehicles.

During the past two years, several insurance company executives have commented in public about rising damage claims and the role of excessively powered vehicles. Articles in the industry trade publication, The National Underwriter, have called for an insurance rating structure for automobiles which reflects the relative safety of their design, as is done for factory and other transportation risks. All these statements are more indicative of the casualty industry's knowledge and concern about unsafe vehicle design than they are of its intention to do anything about that design.

This mixed attitude of worry and inaction is of many years' standing. In 1937 an editor of a monthly journal for casualty underwriters, Safety Engineering, studied some insurance company accident investigations made available to him and over a two-year period wrote a remarkable series of fifteen articles entitled "Make the Automobile Safer." Each article was devoted to a common vehicle design hazard. The editor emphasized the "second collision" and unnecessary dangers to pedestrians. For three years, Safety Engineering even graded the new automobiles by name, rating them on the basis of injury-producing hazards. The editor, Harry Armand, wrote: "A building contractor realizes that tools and brick can fall from great heights, and he guards against possible injury by providing employees with protective headgear to minimize the effects of a possible accident, in addition to protective canopies and scaffolding to safeguard the public. This principle of 'preparing for the inevitable' should be the guiding factor in automobile design. The motor industry must face the fact that accidents occur. It is their duty, therefore, to so design the interior of automobiles that when the passenger is tossed around, he will get an even break and not suffer a preventable injury. It is not beyond the realm of reason to expect that in an interior designed for perfect safety a passenger may experience no more than a shaking up in many kinds of accidents that today are taking a heavy toll in life and limb."

Since those words were written, over a million Americans have been killed and an estimated eighty-five million injured. Harry Armand, still at his job, noted in 1964 that many of the hazards he described in the thirties still persist in one form or another in today's automobiles. Yet the insurance industry continues to treat the automobile as off-limits and restricts its public service to pamphlets published under such catchy titles as "Maim Street" and "Rushin Roulette," containing cartoons of driver carelessness.

The insurance trade associations are equally reticent. In March 1963 the motor vehicle bulletin of the Association of Casualty and Surety Companies noted that the "parking brake" of many new automobiles might appear firmly set but still allow rolling backwards freely. The association added that this could be especially dangerous if a driver parks his car in the family driveway, many of which slope. It explained that this hazard arises because of recent changes in the design of parking and emergency brake systems in nearly all passenger ears and in many light trucks. If the parking brake is set without the simultaneous application of the hydraulic service (foot) brakes, it noted, the bottom of the brake shoes are brought into contact with the drums on the rear wheels, but the shoes are not folly engaged. With the parking brake in this position, the association said, the car cannot roll forward, but it can move freely to the rear. If, on the other hand, the motorist is pressing his foot on the hydraulic brake while he is setting the parking brake, the shoe and drum engage completely and the car will not move.

What did the association recommend? It urged the reader of this limited-circulation bulletin to get into the habit of applying the foot brake while he set the parking brake. "No problem can occur if a driver trains himself to do this," was the advice. Having told the reader how to adjust to a dangerous design, the association saw its task completed. It did not name the models which possessed such a hazard; it did not demand that the manufacturers change the design on future models and correct existing models; it did not notify appropriate state and federal officials, in spite of its knowledge of casualties proceeding from this hazard.

The deep-rooted reluctance of automobile insurers to take action is clearly demonstrated by the experience of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company-the only insurer to show concrete interest in vehicle design research. Between 1952 and 1961 Liberty Mutual developed and constructed two prototype safety ears called Survival Car I and Survival Car II. Working initially with the late Edward Dye at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, Liberty Mutual's chief engineer, Frank Crandell, produced Survival Car I in 1957. This car was a non-operational vehicle featuring sixty safety design innovations, the combined purpose of which was to permit passengers to walk away from head-on collisions that had occurred at speeds up to forty miles per hour. In 1961, four models of Survival Car II were displayed. To show the feasibility of safety improvements within conventional production-line automobiles, Crandell used regular 1960 four-door Chevrolets. Based on his company's accident-injury investigations and forty crash tests, he built twenty-four major design features into these modified Chevrolets. The features included specially constructed "capsule seats" designed to stay moored on impact and protect the passenger from rear-end and side collisions. In addition to a safer steering assembly providing collision protection, improved maneuverability, and greater visibility, there was a fail-safe braking system, an automatic fire control system, a roll-over bar, safer windshields, and a smooth hood to reduce the severity of pedestrian injury.

Liberty Mutual no longer does any work in vehicle design. It considers its ten-year project, which cost $350,000, completed. Company management has no intention of openly criticizing the automobile makers. President Bryan Smith closed the program with the statement: "In sponsoring the reconstruction and design of this completely functional passenger car solely for safety, our hope is that it will stimulate the forces already at work producing safer automobiles." That an insurance company had to produce the first prototype safety car itself constituted a stinging rebuke to the automobile makers. But Smith refused to draw the obvious conclusions and refused to follow through on Crandell's findings and make the project meaningful beyond that of building the company's reputation.

Predictably, the automobile industry's reaction to Liberty Mutual's prototypes was hostile. According to Frank Crandell, he was viewed by the industry as an enemy until 1962 when some communication was established with Ford. He saw some of his designs reflected in eight safety features that graced the experimental Mustang in 1963 and was severely disappointed to see all of them dropped when the car went into actual production.

If the automobile industry's reaction was hostile, the casualty insurance industry's was one of indifference. It did not see any policy-making significance, either private or public, in Liberty's promising engineering work on safer automobile design. Nor did it view the prototypes as stimulants for further research into injury prevention during collisions. There are three major reasons for this fundamental default by the insurance industry. First, the pressure of material self-interest is sharply diminished by the companies' ability to obtain approval from state regulators for higher insurance rates to cover higher loss experiences. Since the ceiling for rates can be raised as the level of claims payments rises, the monetary incentive to reduce the causes of deaths and injuries in automobile accidents by advocating safer vehicles is reduced. Moreover, the profits of the casualty industry now come much more from investment income than from earned premiums. Between 1959 and 1963, for example, the casualty industry had an underwriting profit of $1.38 billion and a net investment income of $4.01 billion. The higher the volume of prepaid insurance premiums, the more funds are available to produce investment income. The second reason for default by the insurance industry is that the automobile manufacturers and their ancillary industries represent important customers for casualty insurers. The third and most important reason is the unwritten law that large business groups never attack one another over a fundamental issue publicly unless they see their survival at stake. A determined and unilateral program by underwriters for safer automobiles would strike the automobile industry at its most sensitive level -- that of marketing strategy and possible exposure to government regulation. The consequences of such an upheaval would be likely to unleash forces for change in more than one direction -- forces beyond the control of both industries. Marketing freedom and minimum government control are very important to the insurance industry as well as to the automobile industry. But government control is not the only inhibition the insurance companies might feel. General Motors keeps a small automobile insurance subsidiary as a reminder that the underwriters are not immune from a possibly devastating competitive program with impressive distribution outlets through automobile dealers.

In addition, the view in insurance circles is that any radical change in the country's perspective on traffic safety will inevitably mean a. larger role for the federal government. Insurance companies have learned how to handle state insurance commissioners, and the prospect of any federal attention to their business alarms them greatly. Even a bill by Congressman Kenneth Roberts to establish a national accident prevention research center was attacked in 1964 by insurance people as a move toward monopoly control over the discovery and dissemination of research information and as a costly effort that would duplicate the one now being satisfactorily performed by employers, insurance companies, trade associations, and safety organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Safety Council.

The most candid commentary on the insurance companies' attitude toward the automobile makers came from Leonard McEnnis, Jr., director of public relations for the IIHS, who said, "They don't want us telling them how to build autos and we don't want them telling us how to sell insurance."


Another instance of surprising default is the inaction of the American Automobile Association (AAA). With clubs in every state and a total membership of nine million motorists, AAA is by far the largest representative of automobile drivers. But however vigorous it may be in fighting highway tolls, unfair motor vehicle taxes, and other pocketbook threats to its membership, its position on automobile design has until recently been altogether one of curtsying whenever the automobile industry nodded. AAA has produced the usual brochures and reflected the accepted traffic safety views. Since the thirties it has singled out pedestrian protection as a special AAA program, but it has carefully excluded from its concern external vehicle design hazards such as protruding ornaments and sharp edges and points.

Closely tied to AAA's Washington headquarters is the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety whose major activity is supporting safety film productions. It also grants $35,000 a year to serious research on driver behavior by Dr. James Malfetti at Columbia University.

AAA is a state-oriented organization. Member clubs finance national headquarters and establish the policies of the national organization. Traditionally, AAA and member clubs have strongly backed exclusive state jurisdiction over traffic safety, placing AAA in full accord with other private safety groups. Until 1961, AAA had not taken a determined position on vehicle design and safety beyond occasional denunciations of braking performance and tire failure. In that year, AAA passed a weak resolution urging the manufacturers to build more safety into their vehicles so as to reduce "the severity of injury to operators and passengers involved in auto accidents." The following year for the first time in AAA history a state club got serious. Led by Robert Kretsch mar and Richard Hoover, the Massachusetts AAA was instrumental in having introduced in the legislature a state bill that would establish a special commission to draft a code of minimum safety standards for the construction of motor vehicles. The bill listed forty-five design features for the proposed commission's consideration. Mark Bauer, the mobile eastern field representative for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, paraded his lobbying skills before his old legislative committee friends who had the bill before them. In 1963, shortly before the hearing on the bill, a special trip to Detroit for the committee was arranged, with all expenses paid. The hill has never gotten out of committee.

Kretschmar and Hoover pressed further. With the support of the New York AAA, they persuaded the Eastern Conference of AAA Motor Clubs to adopt their position for safer vehicles at the annual meeting in the fall of 1963. It was also decided that the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety would finance a project to investigate vehicle hazards and develop standards that could be embodied into law.

On January 22, 1964, Kretschmar delivered an address in New York City accusing the automobile industry of "putting up organized resistance against making cars safer." He pointed out that in the past the manufacturers opposed putting on all cars such equipment as stop lights, directional signals, and windshield wipers until, after years of delay, legislation compelled them to do so. "Safety glass was legislated into cars literally window by window, starting in Massachusetts," he declared. In urging complete safety standards, he cited the results of a Massachusetts state investigation that showed that "the 1963 models of two brands of cars develop steering weakness after about 20,000 miles of use."

In June 1964, the New York AAA's safety director, Charles Murphy, told the Pennsylvania AAA club: "We must try to change the image carefully cultivated over the years of the motorist as the fellow responsible for eighty-five to ninety per cent of the accidents. I look forward to the results of the massive research job being undertaken by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety on this entire question. And I am sure it will be revealing and will lead to constructive public consideration to which manufacturers must eventually respond."

This was the small progressive wing of the AAA speaking. The old guard, especially those in Washington, opposed such a research job but not because of insufficient funds. The AAA Foundation, which receives about $165,000 yearly from AAA clubs, has a substantial financial surplus each year. As of mid-1965, no action had been initiated concerning this projected study.

The national AM, along with most AAA state clubs, has long maintained close relationships with automobile industry personnel. In the thirties and forties AAA received safety grants from the industry. Commanding positions in AAA club membership are held by employees of automobile companies, suppliers, and automobile dealers. When in early 1964 the Michigan Automobile Club released a fifteen-point plan that included a statement urging the manufacturers to "give increasing attention to design and production of features which make cars safer to drive," automobile industry publicists were angered at not being sent a draft for advance clearance. Out-of-state AAA observers conceded that the Michigan club's unilateral move was a bit bold, considering the state in which it is lodged. These observers add that it is quite understandable why the club has maintained a complete silence since its "indiscretion."

Automobile men cultivate the AAA since the clubs make good impressions before state legislative committees. The industry and AAA find that they share common interests. Among these are their opposition to federal "intervention," their desire for more highways, their coolness toward rapid transit, and their encouragement of improved motoring conditions and services. The whole administrative apparatus of AAA is geared to dealing with state officials, and a reorientation to federal activity would be a difficult adjustment, one that would weaken the state clubs at the expense of the national association.

Considerations such as these have kept the AAA, the largest car user group in the nation, from advancing forcefully the safety interests of its members on the issue of vehicle design. The attempt by the Massachusetts and New York clubs to breathe new life into AAA on this issue has not made much headway. The few courageous men who are trying find that regeneration from within is a difficult task. By not backing a determined policy that demands safer automotive engineering, the dominant leaders continue to allow the nine million members of the AAA to suffer the consequences of unsafe vehicles.

While the AAA may occasionally raise a voice that is displeasing to the automobile industry, that "hub of the safety movement," the National Safety Council, remains the unswerving keeper of the traditional faith. Almost everyone in America has heard the council's repeated injunction that to be safe one simply has to be careful. Before every holiday weekend, the council makes its highly publicized prediction of the number of highway deaths. Should the prediction be exceeded, it shows how important are the council's warnings against carelessness; if the prediction exceeded the actual toll, then the council concludes that its warnings made people drive more carefully. Either outcome serves to nourish the council's image of always being on the side of the angels. The council gets enormous publicity as the nation's caretaker of traffic safety. Since its founding in 1915, the council has saturated the country with slogans, printed material, and broadcasted exhortations for safer driving. It has helped to form state and local safety councils, accrediting seventy-two of them as council affiliates, all devoted to persuading the public to drive carefully. This may be a generally useless endeavor but it is not a harmless one. What seems to fill a need in form succeeds very well in excluding alternative methods that could fill it in fact. Every National Safety Council message disseminates a view of highway safety that lulls even the alert segment of the public into thinking that the council knows how to reduce casualties. Stripped to its fundamentals, the council view is that man must be the element adapted to the accident and injury risks of automobile driving, not that the automobile must be designed for maximum possible adaptation to man's requirements. This prejudiced view of the highway safety problem quite expectedly has led to prejudiced solutions. To administer these biased solutions, biased organizations arise. Of these, the National Safety Council is the most prominent example.

The powerful support enjoyed by the council goes far to explain why it refuses to pursue any policies that might imply criticism of the automobile industry's safety performance. Industry and commerce animate the council, provide the major source of its dues (6000 of its 10,000 members are business firms which pay dues according to size, dues that far exceed the individual dues of $7.50), and dominate its board of directors. The automobile manufacturers and their safety organizations are heavily represented on the board. Further, the Automotive Safety Foundation annually grants nearly $150,000 for the council's yearly inventory of how closely communities are adhering to the "Action Program." About the same amount is granted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Automobile Manufacturers Association provides the council with funds for special projects.

Overt pressure by the automobile industry, however, rarely has to be exerted; the council has always attracted the kind of men who reflect the industry's viewpoint. As late as 1965 council president Howard Pyle had this reaction to industry critics who are pressing for a crashworthy car: ''The question is, does this nation want a packaged car or a free car?" Once, in the late fifties, a high council executive found the council's taboo on discussion of car design so demeaning that he attempted to effect a modest change in policy. A weekend meeting between the council's board of directors and automobile executives aboard a yacht on Lake Michigan squashed that attempt.

The difference between the National Safety Council's avowed missions and its actual performance shows the extent to which it has subordinated the promotion of safety to the interests of industry. During its quest to win a federal charter (a prestige imprimatur with little legal significance) from Congress in 1953, the council supplied the following description of its work in a report to the House judiciary committee: "The National Safety Council is presently engaged in a continuous and unified program of accident prevention which includes research into the causes of accident occurrence, devising measures for accident prevention, determination of engineering requirements for safe design, construction and use of machines and equipment, formulation of modern safety legislation by providing needed technical information and advice, participation in educational safety projects, dissemination of material on accident cause and prevention, and cooperation with national, state and local agencies in accident prevention. One of its major functions is to act as a national coordinating agency for all private and public bodies interested in matters of safety."

Weighed against such intentions, what is the Council's actual achievement in traffic safety, apart from its publicity campaigns aimed at the driver? First, measured against even a minimal standard, the council conducts no research. No one is more painfully aware of this fact than its research director, Dr. Murray Blumenthal, whose duties are primarily administrative and whose hope of any improvement in this condition is dwindling. Second, the council has not devised any accident prevention measures or determined any engineering requirements for safe design of automobiles. It has sedulously avoided providing to the public, directly or indirectly, any technical information or advice concerning the formulation of safety legislation which concerns vehicle design. Nor has it cooperated in the slightest with any national, state, or local agencies interested in safer vehicle construction.

Avoidance is not the only path followed by the council in order to continue its unblemished record of never differing with the automobile industry. In a detailed chart included in the distribution literature and presented before legislative committees, entitled "Quantitative Analysis of Traffic Safety Services of National Organizations," the council categorically asserts that present research, standards, and recommendations of the automobile manufacturers pertaining to the operational and crashworthy qualities of vehicles are adequate. The council's basis for such an unequivocal evaluation is a letter from the Automobile Manufacturers Association saying so!
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

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PART 2 OF 2 (CH. 7 CONT'D.)

A more important protective service the council performs for the automobile industry lies in the nature of the traffic accident statistics that it compiles and reports every year. It has been the practice in this country to rely on the council to provide nationwide data on motor vehicle accidents and injuries. This represents a rather unusual delegation of a public function to a private organization. The council has not failed to abuse the privilege. It has not encouraged the compilation, analysis, or reporting of data by state and local agencies relating to the accident injury experience of different makes and models of automobiles. Nor has it done any sample studies of its own regarding these differences, although its alleged research mission would certainly include studies of this kind. The council's default is all the more insupportable in view of the fact that standard motor vehicle accident report forms include data on the make and year of vehicles involved, providing at least the rudiments for such studies. The first statistical reports in this area, dealing with small car-large car comparisons, have come in the last three years from five state agencies and the Cornell program. Neither central National Safety Council headquarters in Chicago nor its highly publicized field service personnel were involved in these efforts.

In addition, the council is a staunch adherent of measuring traffic safety progress by the death rate per vehicle miles traveled. In a council pamphlet called "The Fight for Life," the decline in the traffic death rate over the years is cited as the answer to the question, "Does all this work and activity by the Council really make things safer for the people of the United States?" This declining death rate, measured in relation to the number of miles traveled by automobiles, is the standard by which the private traffic safety movement measures the success of its programs, assuming without any evidence that such a cause-and-effect relationship exists.

There are many questions that can be raised about the consistency of methods in calculating vehicle miles traveled, but the pertinent factor here is that any claim of a reduced death rate per vehicle miles traveled gives an illusion of progress which is definitely misleading. The fatality rate per hundred million vehicle miles traveled had gone down steadily from 11.4 in 1940 to 5.2 in 1962, then began rising again in 1963 and registered 5.7 in 1964. But fatality rates have remained basically unchanged when the total population of the United States is used as a base. For example, traffic deaths per 100,000 population totaled 26.1 in 1940, 23.0 in 1950 and 24.9 in 1964. What this means is that a motorist can expect to drive farther in any given year without being killed, but he is just as likely as in previous years to be killed within that year. Most important, the council's emphasis on the vehicle-mile death rate has greatly obscured the tremendous injury totals and rates that are produced by automobile collisions. For every death by automobile, there are about ninety injuries, including three totally crippling disabilities. National injury statistics are arrived at only by sample, but evidence in various states indicates a sharp increase in injury rates during the postwar years, reflecting in part a greater density of vehicles in urban areas and more rapid modem medical care that is saving lives. In Connecticut, during Governor Ribicoff's well-known crackdown on speeders, the number of accidents and injuries increased and so did the injury rate per vehicle miles traveled. Connecticut, which compiles better statistics on motor vehicle accidents than most states, reflects the National Safety Council's traditional inattention to injury rates. Between 1961 and 1962 Connecticut reported a staggering 21.8% increase in persons injured. When asked what could explain such an increase, the statistical office of the Department of Motor Vehicles replied that it had no explanation and did not contemplate any study to find one. Robert Catlin, a retired insurance executive and member of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety, proposed at a committee meeting in 1964 that a serious study be undertaken to determine with some exactness the number and pattern of injuries arising out of motor vehicle accidents. He suggested there was reason to believe that the increase has been alarmingly high in recent years. His suggestion received a frosty reception by council and automobile representatives at the meeting.

The focus of the National Safety Council's traffic safety activities is the support and promotion of the "Action Program" of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety. A council publication outlining in great detail how to form a local volunteer safety group states: "The Action Program is a compilation of the best knowledge in the traffic safety field and incorporates accepted standards of national organizations concerned with traffic accident prevention. It is the master plan for all traffic safety activities. The basic objective of your local traffic program should be the adoption of the Action Program in your area."

The Action Program was launched by the traffic safety establishment in 1946 after a White House conference on traffic safety. It consists of ten separate subjects, each represented by a booklet distributed by the President's Committee for Traffic Safety. [1]

The council president, Howard Pyle, recently made some ambitious claims for this master plan. He said it was developed "through a sound and democratic process," that "every feature in it had been proven workable," that it brings "to each governmental jurisdiction the best of fifty years of ideas, experience and research findings in traffic safety," and that if state and local governments would only invest annually an additional three dollars per capita to apply the program more fully, the traffic death and injury toll would be cut in half.

The facts contradict Mr. Pyle's assertions. The program was drawn up by a clique representing private economic and bureaucratic interests. It was prepared without any participation of the formal institutions, legislative or administrative, that would ordinarily be associated with democratic policy-making. Even technical expertise was not involved. Those who passed on the drafts of the program and determined what was to be included in it, and what emphasized, had no scientific, engineering, or medical qualifications that might have substantial bearing on the drafting of a traffic safety program. Since the program has been unchanged since 1949, it is hard to understand how it could bring "the best of fifty years of ideas, experience and research findings in traffic safety," particularly since the greatest advance in knowledge and experimentation in the traffic safety field has come during the last fifteen years.

The effectiveness of the program has never been determined. The council's annual traffic inventory, purporting to show how many states and cities apply the Action Program, is based on inventory forms filled out by various state officials. From the answers on these forms the council concludes that fifty-six per cent of the Action Program standards have been applied at the city level and seventy per cent at the state level. If one asks how this conclusion was reached, the answer is, "The state officials told us so." Aside from the likely distortions of self-serving statements, what is more interesting is that the council has never compiled comparative evidence showing the accident experience in areas applying the Action Program and those areas not applying it. This failure suggests that the outcome of any comparisons might prove embarrassing to the council and the authoritative mystique which surrounds the program. It is known that some unpublished correlations made by National Safety Council staff in the postwar years have shown negative or inconclusive results. At any rate, the failure of the program to prove its workability is no surprise to the handful of competent accident researchers in this country. They look upon the program as a statement of general aspirations designed to offend none of the interests it was prepared to protect in the first place. Emerging from such a context, it is not surprising that the program gives only the briefest formal attention to the vehicle, that it contains no ranking of priorities for the many subjects it treats, and is almost entirely useless for operating and test purposes.

The council's bankrupt performance is clearly visible when its leaders are interviewed on the subject of the traffic safety problem. The impression received is well summarized by one sympathetic interpreter, Nick Thimmesch, who wrote in Car and Driver of the understanding he carried away from long discussions with council people: "But all of man's programs deliver only promise and perhaps progress, and people will forever fuss over traffic safety. The NSC men know people will always be killed on highways; that Detroit's products and the imports are about as safe as can be; that 'vehicle failure' comes from poor maintenance by owners; that driving environment in the U.S. is spectacularly improved; and that the principal cause of accidents is species homo sapiens, few of whom ever really learn to drive well.

"The National Safety Council, the Great Green Giant, has learned that sin will always be with us. After two generations of trying to reform human nature, the Council now wisely realizes it can only be treated. Besides, life isn't that bad anyway.

"We can only do so much: says Ed Kirby [Edwin Kirby, a National Safety Council traffic safety specialist], the look of knowledge on his face."


On the ground floor of the building at 1711 H Street N.W. in Washington, the safety establishment displays a creativity in political science not approached by the most powerful of private lobbies. The door at that address identifies it as the office of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety. The drawn Venetian blinds covering the long front window do not allow those passing by to see inside. But any interested visitor is greeted by a friendly secretary and on request may meet the committee's executive director, William Foulis, or its assistant director, Richard Tossell. Foulis is a former radio broadcaster and a genuinely talented practitioner of the art of double-talk. Tossell is an unpretentious holder of a doctorate in safety education.

The inquirer would never suspect that behind this smooth facade a federal institution quite without parallel in the history of American government is administered. There bas never been another agency created by and then leased back outright to private enterprise. The price for this continuing experiment of business in government is about $50,000 a year -- a rather modest fee for maintaining an agency that (as the committee's chairman, William Randolph Hearst, Jr., put it) "by virtue of its identification with the office of the President, provides the traffic safety movement with the prestige of the President, which no other organization could accomplish."

Foulis and Tossell labor in government office space and give instructions to civil servants under their authority, but on pay day their checks carry the name of a private, tax-exempt organization called the President's Action Committee for Traffic Safety. Most of the $50,000 which this "paper" organization receives is contributed by the Automotive Safety Foundation and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The remainder comes from a few other private business groups having similar traffic safety interests. With such generosity, the ASF and IIHS have become the dominant members of the President's Committee's advisory council, composed of thirty-seven people, most representing automotive, insurance, transportation, and "professional" safety associations. On paper, the advisory council makes the policy for the committee to follow, but in reality it is the advisory council's executive committee (renamed the administrative committee in September 1964) which is the decision-making group within the council. The actions of the President's Committee are the actions of this executive committee run by Mattson, Brown, Pyle, and Arthur Butler (through his aides) of the National Highway Users Conference. The President's Committee is composed of eighteen patronage positions filled by fairly prominent individuals, most of whom know nothing whatever about traffic safety.

It took considerable ingenuity for the automobile industry leaders to develop the idea of the President's Committee. It was created in 1954 simply by a letter from President Eisenhower to Mr. Harlow Curtice, head of General Motors and chairman of the then Business Advisory Committee on Highway Safety. In the tone of the solicited message, the President's letter, dated April 13, 1954, noted that the recent White House Conference on Traffic Safety (sponsored by private industry) had generated an enthusiasm which should not be lost, and expressed the President's wish "to have a national committee for traffic safety formed to follow through on the fine work begun by the business group."

The Committee's organizational meeting was held two weeks later in Room 4426 of the Treasury Building, where Mr. Curtice stated the new group's purposes. These were to organize local communities for a continuing traffic safety effort and to serve in an advisory capacity to the President on matters pertaining to traffic accident prevention. It was also decided by those present that, contingent upon approval of the American Petroleum Institute, Rear Admiral H. B. Miller (USN, Ret) would become the committee's volunteer director. These private citizens then voted to obtain $16,000 to $20,000 by private subscription to finance salary and travel expenses of a staff director who would be responsible to Admiral Miller. Mr. Curtice offered to raise the necessary funds. Mr. Light Yost of General Motors was appointed as secretary of the committee. In considering a formal name for the committee, all in attendance agreed that it was essential for "President" to be in the title. A government staff responsible to the staff director was to be made available to the committee, Mr. Curtice announced. Thus General Motors required only two weeks to establish an executive organization whose essential structure remains unchanged to the present day.

In 1960, the committee was given a more permanent legal status within the administration by Executive Order 10858, issued by President Eisenhower. It is vaguely worded, permitting the committee's ruling advisory council wide latitude in interpreting its own role and the role of the committee. Executive Order 10858 associated the committee with the White House explicitly in Section Two, which states: "The Committee, on behalf of the President, shall promote State and community application of the Action Program of traffic safety measures established by the President's Highway Safety Conference in 1946 and revised in 1949."

At the beginning of the Kennedy administration there was some question whether the committee would be continued, but this uncertainty was resolved when Mr. Hearst reached an understanding with the President that he would remain as committee chairman. However, in October 1961 the President signed an amendment to the executive order, permitting the Secretaries of Defense, Commerce, Labor, and Health, Education, and Welfare to sit as ex officio members. Whatever hope that this amendment would bring a greater government voice to the committee's actions has not materialized. The representatives of the Departments of Commerce and Health, Education, and Welfare on the advisory council's administrative committee (formerly the executive committee) have played an entirely secondary and almost obsequious role, leaving the entire show to Mattson and his associates.

The committee's formal purpose is to promote state and community application of the Action Program. It tries to do this in part by conducting conferences and seminars of women's groups, state legislators, and county and municipal officials with federal funds. These activities keep Foulis on the road many days, with all the expenses paid by his private employers, who also supply volunteer assistance and absorb some entertainment expenses at these meetings.

William Bethea, Foulis' predecessor, was the committee's privately salaried staff director from 1954 until 1961 when he resigned, partly due to the selfishness of the interest groups on the advisory council, which finally persuaded him that nothing effective could be done. "They close in on you," he said. According to Bethea, the advisory council "is completely hostile to the federal government.... They never want to talk about the vehicle, which is the primary bugaboo," he said. Bethea ridiculed the idea that the committee staff and committee advisers were "safety professionals," saying, "we were just organization and public relations men." In describing how he protected the committee's favored position with the government, he honestly admitted: "I kept the White House wrapped around me all the time." He specifically referred to Howard Pyle, then an aide to President Eisenhower, and Frederick Dutton, an assistant to President Kennedy, as the two key contacts there who "would back you up all the way."

The committee's work includes preparation and distribution of audio and visual aids and the printing and distributing of slick progress reports. The latest such report, released in September 1964, devoted thirty-four pages to the Action Program. Vehicle engineering was discussed in twelve lines, alleging safety gains in recent models. All committee projects are developed and approved by the heads of the advisory council before being sent to the Bureau of Public Roads in the Department of Commerce for financing. A law authorizes the Department of Commerce to spend up to $150,000 a year for the committee's projects. The Bureau of Public Roads' approval of these projects, rendered with little written justification, is a more or less rubber-stamp affair.

The importance of the committee does not come from receipt and expenditure of these small sums, but from the exploitation of its greatest capital asset -- the prestige of the President's office. This is the attraction for all those who work in and around the committee. As James Lake of the Automotive Safety Foundation said at a meeting of the advisory council's executive committee, "The President's name is magic; his appearance is magic." And the committee has made sure that it alone in the traffic safety field bas access to that magic. Ever since Eisenhower took office, every President has spoken on the traffic safety problem only in connection with a function of the committee, such as the presentation of a report or an annual meeting. The proper expressions are drafted by the committee's privately paid staff and sent over to the White House for almost verbatim incorporation into the President's formal statement.

On September 10, 1964, President Johnson issued a statement in response to the committee's report on the Action Program's community application. In the statement he called for an intensified effort toward accident prevention as the program directs, and he praised the committee's work, taking note of the advisory council's supportive role. He thus became the latest President in a line going back to Calvin Coolidge to say, "Primary responsibility [for traffic safety] rests in our States, counties and municipalities."

The committee rarely loses an opportunity to display the President's committee seal on its publications, which leads the reader to believe that their contents have the full approval of the President. Foulis, the committee's executive director, wanted to go even further last year when he unsuccessfully attempted to get Department of Commerce support for the seal's being employed by any safety council or committee-approved group on literature supporting the Action Program.

The President's committee seal has come in bandy for more overt political policies which the advisory council of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety supports. One such instance is the promotion of interstate traffic safety compacts as a means of heading off federal action and at the same time of achieving a de facto delegation of state legislative initiatives to industry-dominated compact commissions. The most important compact to Mattson and the Automotive Safety Foundation is the Vehicle Equipment Safety Compact, which the tax-exempt ASF has helped promote with men and money. This compact was drafted by the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Council of State Governments. It was launched in 1962 after an exceptionally vague enabling resolution was whisked through Congress, and it is now adhered to by a majority of states. A commission to administer the compact's business has been created and is nestling in the Washington headquarters of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. AAMVA -- a private association of state administrators -- has long been the recipient of grants from the ASF and lavish automobile industry hospitality at its annual meetings. The object of the commission is to control the content and pace of motor vehicle safety standards, which are sent to the state legislatures or (where the state law permits) to state motor vehicle departments for approval. The initiatives come from commission "experts" who thus far have all been from the tire and automobile industries.

Three years ago the President's Committee on Traffic Safety began circulating a pamphlet entitled the "Vehicle Equipment Safety Compact" with the President's committee seal prominently displayed on its cover. The pamphlet contained a glowing description of the compact's promise and emphasized the message that highway safety is entirely the states' and not the federal government's responsibility. This pamphlet was printed and paid for by the Automobile Manufacturers Association. There is no record of either the committee or any other federal agency approving this bold move. It was strictly a staff operation carried out by Foulis and industry advisers.

To foster the impression that they are right on top of the traffic safety problem, the advisory council's "professionals" have pursued strange paths to publicize their "make-work" activity. The transcripts of the advisory council's executive committee meetings over the years are laborious records of the deliberations of self-seeking publicists. One of the more coherent subjects that absorbed their energies was discussed at several meetings in early 1963 and centered around information supplied by Howard Pyle that the National Safety Council would soon announce the 1962 traffic fatality toll (40,804) as being the highest ever. All readily agreed that the committee might, in Mattson's words, "offset the negative aspects of last year's all-time high in traffic deaths" by "capitalizing on the public interest generated" by so hideous a record. Mattson said that he and Pyle thought "the President ought to be pulled into this in some manner." There would be some kind of meeting where the President would appear, Mattson foresaw, in front of the members of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety and several representatives of each organization on the advisory council "This could serve as a springboard for the President to make a speech and this would be the platform from which all the publicity would generate as to the concern that the President has over this; he said. Then with an expectation born of past experience, Mattson added: "In all probability the President would say to the President's Committee and to the members of the Advisory Council that this is an urgent situation, an emergency situation, that this is a grass roots problem and therefore, what we ought to do is to get the Action Program of the President's Committee out to the various states."

Foulis and the members of the executive committee then began to discuss strategy about how best to "deliver" the President. Pyle advised his confreres that he had a "fair knowledge of how that white pagoda operates there," and that the object should be to publicize the Action Program by showing that the President believed in it. The President would call the committee and advisory council into emergency session, "as his core of advisers," and charge these advisers to see that this community plan of action was implemented Pyle told his colleagues that getting wider acceptance of the Action Program required repetition. "I have seen my father stand in the pulpit for fifty years," he said, "and talk about the Ten Commandments, and they are going to do that from now until hell freezes over. There is no new way to say this. You have just got to keep saying it over and over and over again. You tell them what you have got to tell them, and you tell them what you told them."

Russell Singer of the American Automobile Association cautioned not to make too much of the 1962 death toll. "This thing could get away from us," he said, referring to the risk of inciting alarmist and radical ideas. He counseled that to give the proper perspective, the fact that people traveled more in 1962 than in 1961 should be attached to the death toll announcement. Discussion followed, off the record, about the danger "of misdirected or undirected public reaction to the 1962 figures."

Back on the record, Pyle stressed the short time available before the council's death toll announcement and how quickly they on the executive committee had to act. Russell Brown wondered about the matter of getting "the skids greased at the White House." Pyle replied that this was a detail to be worked out. Mattson informed Brown that the White House was not aware of any of these plans. Foulis added that neither was Hearst, the committee chairman, indicating that there was "a very strong possibility we can see the chairman in the morning. Whether we want to or not is another thing." Pyle suggested that Hearst "could contact the White House immediately and ask for an audience with the President."

The executive committee moved rapidly. Hearst and Foulis met briefly with President Kennedy on February 8, 1963, to make arrangements. Five days later, the executive committee met in a government office to discuss in more detail what points should come out of the meeting at which the President would appear. William Simon of the National Highway Users Conference advocated getting the White House committed to the kinds of state action that could only end up with state legislation (like backing the Uniform Vehicle Code program). This, Simon reasoned, would by simple logic stop the White House from supporting competitive federal laws for highway safety. He thought that "that would be a good policy position to get the Administration into." Simon expressed added concern that with the "White House dipping their fingers into all kinds of state legislative programs" such as civil rights and getting rid of poll tax laws, it wouldn't seem "that the White House would be out of character if they would dip into this highway safety thing."

Others around the table preferred to suggest that the President say something that would not arouse his suspicions. Foulis offered an alternative: "If we could provide the President with something that would give a public image, give the proper public image of what is being done and how it is being done, we would be much better off ..." This seemed to the group like a good idea, so it was decided that the announced purpose of the meeting would be "the acceleration of the application of the Action Program."

The next matter to which they turned their attention was how to publicize the meeting, and whether federal funds could be used to hire a public relations firm, as was done on prior occasions for the conferences the President's Committee on Traffic Safety sponsored around the country. The Automotive Safety Foundation's James Lake estimated the cost at $5000 and thought that maybe Life magazine could be persuaded to do a story on the general subject of traffic safety, "tying the President into this thing." When Foulis asked, "You think we ought to hire somebody to get Life magazine to cover it?" Lake suddenly dropped the subject. The deliberations continued over who should be invited from the government, whether too many government people would unbalance the private participants' presence, how to handle Capitol Hill, especially Congressman Kenneth Roberts, who was not thought to be properly enthusiastic over either the Action Program or the President's Committee operations.

Russell Brown broke in with exasperation at one point, urging his associates to concentrate on getting President Kennedy to speak before a small group at the White House rather than before a large group in an auditorium, which would dilute the whole idea of the meeting. "I'd like to get this guy on the record to make a statement. He hasn't said boo about traffic safety as far as I am concerned, and I think that is why I am even willing to have him make a statement to the press," he said. Brown clearly thought the time had come to be more aggressive. He declared that Hearst, Mattson, Mrs. Katharine White (a member of the President's Committee) and Foulis "ought to go up there and gang up on the guy. I think it is important that he finally gets on his feet." Dr. Paul Joliet, chief of the Public Health Service's division of accident prevention, concurred. "He will find it more difficult to be negative before four than before one," Joliet said, and Brown replied, "Particularly before a woman."

Mattson was a little worried that "we might look kind of bad if both Mr. Hearst and Mrs. White went in there and neither one knew a damn thing," especially, as Mattson allowed, the President was "no fool." But he went along with the idea of sending four people up there, relying on his own capacity to meet any contingencies.

Nobody, including Dr. Joliet or Mr. James Williams (director of the Bureau of Public Roads' office of highway safety), who ostensibly were representing President Kennedy's administration, raised the question of why the President should stand up for a set of policies created and promoted by what Mr. Williams himself has called, on other occasions, special interest groups abusing the President's prestige. Admittedly, raising such a question would have taken a little courage. The leaders of the President's Committee on Traffic Safety can change moods on short notice. Williams later discovered this at a June 1963 meeting of the executive committee. At that time, he notified the "pillars" of the traffic safety establishment that the Bureau of Public Roads' budget for highway safety had been cut for fiscal 1964 by twenty-five per cent and that this cut would have to be absorbed down the line, including the amount the bureau supplied to the President's Committee. Whereupon the "pillars" subjected Williams to a humiliating session of outraged reactions.

"Who stands up for us when you come to a budget hearing?" demanded Pyle.

"Yon are operating out of the trust fund, which is rather lush with dough right now," Simon asserted.

"Why haven't we the right to seek to correct it?" asked Burton Marsh of the AAA.

Mattson wanted to know if the decision couldn't be changed. He was undisturbed by the fact that the fiscal year was to begin just two weeks later.

Pyle, whose fury was building up, finally exploded: "I think this is murder, absolutely murder, and if I were in a position where I was called on for a public statement about this, I would have to cut this thing to ribbons in public. I don't think the Bureau of Public Roads wants this done."

Williams said, "I think that this decision was made in the best of faith."

"It doesn't make any difference," Pyle told him. "We in the private community are expected to boast of our strength and we are criticized if we don't get something done." What Pyle was indignant over was that fewer taxpayer funds would be available during the forthcoming year to make his "private community" look good.

Simon, of the National Highway Users Conference, interjected that he thought the money representing the twenty-five per cent cut was really going into research instead of traffic safety. "They are researching a way to invent a new transportation device to do away with the automobile. That is one project they have got projected. They are going to find a better form of transportation than the automobile. My people don't like that Neither will yours." "Neither will ours," chimed in Richard Bennett of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Simon wanted James Roche, the executive vice president of General Motors, and Mr. Hearst to go directly to Mr. Whitton, the federal highway administrator, and bring about "a better understanding or adjustment." The discussion was then off the record.

Back on the record, Russell Brown recommended calling Hearst, who was in Europe.

"Have you ever tried to catch him?" answered Mattson. ''There is not enough money in this committee's function to run down that guy." It was finally decided not to pass a formal motion but simply to communicate the committee's displeasure over the cut in other ways and plan so that it would not be repeated in future years.

The executive committee members always have been troubled by Hearst's casualness and inattention to formal operations of the President's Committee for Traffic Safety. Mattson recounted how "terribly embarrassed" he was one time "when Hearst had to get up and leave the President's Committee and said, 'Joe, you take over,' and I said, 'No, I am not a member of the committee.' And he said, 'It doesn't matter; get up there: And he walked out of the room."

Notwithstanding such behavior, Hearst is an important figure whenever the traffic safety establishment has to beat down efforts by Presidential advisers to abolish or downgrade the committee. As chief executive of a large newspaper chain, William Randolph Hearst, Jr. is a good man for approaching Presidents. In December 1963 he met with President Johnson and obtained the President's acquiescence to the continuance of the committee. The newspaper mogul values highly his being Chairman of the Committee and actively worked for reappointment in 1961. Apparently he sees every compatibility between his newspaper holdings and his reliance on the advice of the automobile and insurance safety professionals on the advisory council to whom he defers openly.

Between 1962 and 1964, high officials in the Department of Commerce and certain government agencies tried in vain to dissolve or at least to curb the committee, so anomalous and notorious had been its status and activities under the domination of its advisory council. A host of arguments was advanced to support their case: the untenable fiscal and administrative practices resulting from the mixing of private funds and staff with public funds and staff; the inherent inability of the committee to be adequately responsive to the public interest when its direction comes from private groups; the obstruction, duplication, and complications it poses for the Office of Highway Safety; the false impression it gives to the public that the federal government is playing an important role in highway safety when the committee is actually being used to make sure that precisely the opposite is the case; the use of the committee's Presidential prestige to preserve the status quo in safety policy at the state and community level; the superfluous nature of the committee in the light of the creation of the Office of Highway Safety, the Division of Accident Prevention, and the Interdepartmental Highway Safety Board in the years since the committee was organized; and the more efficient and more appropriate exercise by the Office of Highway Safety of whatever useful endeavors the committee is supposed to perform as outlined in its executive order.

The argument was clear: a privately owned and run government agency should not be tolerated. It was not even good form. But tolerated it was -- and still is. The movement against the committee was reaching a decisive stage in the Department of Commerce, with James Williams, Lowell Bridwell, Acting Deputy Federal Highway Administrator, and Clarence Martin, Under Secretary for Transportation, comprising the chain of command behind it. White House aides were persuaded that something had to be done. But the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, shattered all the plans. In January 1964 Secretary of Commerce Luther Hodges submitted to the White House a draft executive order upgrading the Interdepartmental Highway Safety Board (a coordinating group for federal agencies involved in highway safety) and reducing the President's Commit tee on Traffic Safety to a subordinate advisory role. Presidential assistant Walter Jenkins did not think such a change was timely, though he said he saw value in it. What this really meant was that during the previous month Hearst had spoken to the President, who, burdened with the problems of a painful transition, assented to keeping the committee as it was.

In September 1964 Mattson and his associates forged ahead, changing the rules governing the advisory council in order to increase its control over the committee and strengthen its own autonomy. This just brought the formalities closer to the realities. Hearst was delighted to relinquish more of his formal powers as chairman. He had the title and that was what counted.

The committee continues as the Presidential voice on traffic safety with no supervision from the White House. Its wide latitude in employing the President's prestige simply dilutes the respect which the highest office in the nation should be granted. It is scarcely fitting for private interest groups to run an executive agency that speaks for the President; this seems clearly to be a situation that violates the basic canons of democratic government and executive organization. What has enabled the advisory council to manipulate the President's Committee on Traffic Safety in this manner without fear of being disciplined has been its essentially negative mission to see that the federal government stays out of traffic safety and that the entrenched view of accidents and injuries as being due to driver behavior is not disturbed. A status quo policy makes very good camouflage.

The rule of the traffic safety establishment has been a reign of darkness. Few who have observed closely its infidelity to the cause of human life have been in a position or felt a duty to articulate these observations publicly. One exception is Dr. Daniel B. Moynihan, former Assistant Secretary of Labor and the only political scientist who has ever taken a sustained interest in traffic safety. Moynihan found that the establishment's great emphasis on retaining complete state responsibility for traffic safety was not based on any useful analysis of which government jurisdictions can best meet which aspects of the safety problem. It was based instead on an analysis of which jurisdiction can be best manipulated. Moynihan described the situation in state administrations thus: •The typical bureau of motor vehicles is filled with deservedly low-paid clerks and run by an assortment of genial 'pols' with utterly no training or interest in traffic safety except as it provides an opportunity to do small favors -- passing out low-number license plates, lifting a suspension, restoring a license here and there, and so on." It is not surprising that the automobile industry is so proud of its long and close relationships with the state authorities responsible for motor vehicle regulation. In numerous statements, automobile industry spokesmen talk of the •constructive" cooperation between the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Although the AAMVA is a private organization, the industry representatives regard it as an official body of state administrators, and the AAMVA does nothing to dispel this idea. General Motors' Charles Chayne has given the customary description: "This industry-government link for many years has proved highly effective as a means of facilitating exchange of information and suggestions and as a medium for the cooperative solution of many of the technical and legal problems involved in automotive safety."

So close is the relationship between the industry and most state administrators and their key aides that the Automobile Manufacturers Association's legislative lobbyists, such as Karl Richards and Mark Bauer, need only call their friends at the motor vehicle department to learn whether a given bill introduced by a given legislator has any strength behind it, or whether it is just a "hopper filler."

While Moyoihan was an aide to Governor Averell Harriman in the late fifties, he was also dismayed by the nature and use of traffic-accident data. In 1963, representing the Department of Labor, he testified before the Roberts subcommittee that traffic accident and injury statistics, with very few exceptions, have been collected uncritically for decades by state and local governments and analyzed uncritically by those who process them for national dissemination-meaning largely the National Safety Council. As a result, he said, these statistics have contributed al most nothing to accident injury prevention. The reception given Moynihan's testimony by those to whom it presented a direct challenge further confirmed Moynihan's characterization of the traffic safety movement as lacking in self-criticism. He told the Ribicoff subcommittee two years later about his experience before the Roberts subcommittee: "First, the hearing room in which I made that statement was filled with persons representing the major institutions concerned with traffic safety. Second, it was of course a public statement and was printed in the published record of the hearing. Finally, it was rather an emphatic statement, which had not, to my knowledge, been made before.

"For these reasons, it seems to me that the reaction to the statement was rather remarkable.

"There was no reaction.

"So far as I know the statement never appeared in any traffic safety publication. No one commented on it. No one attempted to refute it. I certainly do not wish to suggest that silence inferred agreement, but it could indicate a measure of indifference."

Indifference to evidence or the lack of it bas been the trademark of the establishment even within its chosen field of concentration -- driver behavior. It has laid great stress on driver education as a principal accident-prevention measure. This measure never was based on any evidence that would substantiate its pretensions. To this day it remains at best a hypothesis that costs millions of dollars and crowds an already congested high school curriculum. Despite numerous reports allegedly proving that youths with driver education (largely classroom lectures) have fewer accidents than those who have not taken such courses, every one of them contains deficiencies that render its conclusions useless, according to Dr. Richard Michaels of the Bureau of Public Roads. Among the control groups chosen for statistical comparison, the driver education group, for example, often has been mainly composed of girls, who drive much less than boys and drive less at night. Or it was found that prosecutors would not pursue first charges involving minor accidents against youths who had taken such courses. This does not mean that the concept of driver training is worthless; it does strongly indicate, however, that the statistics need a firmer foundation before meaningful comparisons can be made. Even after the elements of the driving task are understood, it may be revealed that the time and resources necessary to upgrade driver control and response to highway situations are not practical and are replaceable by cheaper and more effective engineering innovations which adapt to human limitations. The organized forces of safety are unmoved; they want millions of dollars more for the same "proven" kind of driver education of high school students, college students, and adults. The burgeoning driver-education industry, well into its third decade, agrees vigorously.

Enforcement is another "time-tested" preventive measure that has not been subjected to much scientific scrutiny. In an article by Dr. Michaels entitled "The Effects of Enforcement on Traffic Behavior," which appeared in Public Roads in December 1960, the author examined data comparing highly patrolled roads in Wisconsin with comparable roads having fewer patrolmen. The author concluded that different amounts of highway police patrol between the test roads and the non-test roads showed no reliable difference in the number of accidents on those roads. Since studies like this are very rare and since the competence of the researcher, Dr. Michaels, is well known, his conclusion was a challenge to one of the main foundations of the traditional safety policy. (Michaels was trying to open a line of inquiry, not close one.) There was some grumbling about the article along the line of its undermining enforcement efforts, but by and large the establishment held to the standard operating procedure: When challenged, ignore.

Closely allied to the enforcement approach is the long-held belief that a small percentage of incorrigible or accident-prone drivers account for the majority of accidents. If these people could either be adequately punished or taken off the roads, according to this belief, the highway accident problem would be greatly diminished. This exaggerated assertion would never have been taken seriously if its advocates had paused to apply the Poisson distribution-a mathematical technique for describing the probable occurrence of infrequent events. Using the Poisson method, and purely as a result of chance, nine per cent of the drivers would be expected to have forty per cent of all the accidents. Actual accident studies indicate that nine per cent of the drivers have forty-eight per cent of all the accidents. The difference between the Poisson result and the results of these studies is really the small number of drivers who have repeated accidents in excess of the number expected by chance. In a review of studies on the accident-proneness of drivers, Professor Ross McFarland concluded that "close and invariable relationships between particular characteristics of drivers and the frequency of accidents have rarely been found."

For decades, speed was the subject of the most widespread slogans drummed into the public. "Speed kills" and "slow down and live" are familiar ones peddled by the National Safety Council. But of late the council is underplaying these messages, owing in part to the embarrassing effects on the automobile companies' promotional emphasis on horsepower, speed, and racing and -- encouragingly enough -- due in part to the results of a study by the Bureau of Public Roads six years ago. This study, conducted by David Solomon, concerned the relationship between accidents and highway speed on rural highways. The findings showed a more complex picture of the role of speed than had been assumed before. Accident involvement rates are at a minimum at speeds between fifty and seventy-five miles per hour. As the speed goes below fifty miles per hour or above seventy-five miles per hour, the involvement rate increases rapidly. Solomon emphasized the importance of variations from average speed on a given section of highway in contributing to accidents. Although obviously the severity of accidents is greater at higher speeds, the study revealed that considering accident frequency rates and severity, the number of injuries per vehicle miles traveled is at its minimum in the speed range of forty-five to seventy miles per hour.

The failure of the establishment to provide some empirical basis for its driver-oriented nostrums is fully consistent with the purpose of concentrating on the driver in the first place. That purpose is to divert attention from the vehicle, not really to understand driver behavior, because a sincere attempt to understand driver behavior would inevitably bring under discussion the engineering of the vehicle. To take a fairly simple example, many drivers respond to an emergency situation by a sudden application of the brakes, which can easily make the brakes lock and lead to the loss of steering control. There is substantial evidence that the loss of steering control with locked brakes is highly dangerous and has led to many collisions with other vehicles or roadside objects. There are two approaches to solving this problem: either trying to teach drivers that during emergencies they must not resort to a sudden application of brakes which, because of their design, will lock; or trying to persuade the manufacturers to provide cars with anti-locking brakes. It is not difficult to choose the more feasible approach. But although anti-locking brakes have been in use in aircraft since the thirties, the automobile makers have done very little research and development in this area-at least, very little that is publicly known.

The first-rate accident research that is being done in this country, backed mainly by federal funds, is producing mounting evidence that the more that is known about human behavior, the more the fundamental solutions will lie in the engineering of the highway transport system. The vehicle is the basic unit of that system; the driver's adequacy is a function of his vehicle's adequacy. The traffic safety establishment sees the basic problem of accident prevention in the light of an existing system that requires the driver to judge and act perfectly without fail. But the limitations of human beings in coping with the increasingly complex driving task, even under the most rigid law-enforcement or the most ambitious education programs, make it unrealistic to expect all drivers to control their vehicles perfectly all the time.

Before an engineering audience recently, Dr. Michaels described in these words the orientation of modern research on highway safety: "This historical failure has been to arbitrarily assign the control function to the driver without fully knowing whether he could carry out that function with the required accuracy and reliability. And the more we have examined the requirements of the system in its control dimension, the more evidence we have uncovered that those requirements are neither sufficiently adapted to human capabilities nor do they adequately take into account his limitations as a controller." Dr. Michaels offered an example of how electronic communication instruments can greatly improve the driver's ease of perceptual judgments and prevent an accident. "Most of the basic dynamics of the free overtaking rear-end collision accident are known," he said, "and it is possible to design systems for aiding the driver in solving the discrimination and judgment problems inherent in these situations."

Appearing before the National Safety Congress in 1963, Rex Whitton, the Federal Highway Administrator, delivered a significant analysis of the highway safety problem which his Bureau of Public Roads researchers were prepared to explain and defend "Perhaps the time has come," Mr. Whitton said, "to examine some of our present safety programs and some of our present safety concepts. The truth, as I see it, may be painful.... I am concerned about the great amount of energy being devoted to 'hard sell' efforts to reform the driver -- to scare or shame him into being a better one. I believe we have exhausted the value of this continuing assault on human nature. And I have grave doubts that it works.... In many cases haven't we given the driver a task beyond the capacity of his senses, nerves, and muscles? ... I believe that because of these attacks [on the drivers], our attention is being distracted and our energy is being diverted from the essential things we could and should be doing to reduce the traffic accident toll.

"We must face up squarely to this premise: the majority of drivers are performing as well as we can reasonably expect, under existing conditions. From that premise it is logical to reason that the conditions must be changed -- we must improve the road, the vehicle, and the basic control measures of the system. We already have in our hands much proven technology, which if widely applied can bring about great improvement in highway safety. And such improvement is within our financial resources. Indeed, we cannot afford not to move ahead."

Whitton's remarks were as direct a condemnation of the conventional traffic safety theory as a high federal official could make and still observe the Department of Commerce's polite rule not to condemn the vehicle. And he offered an alternate way.

The establishment ignored the address. Whitton's remarks, which at the very least should have sparked debate and self-examination, never went further than his voice carried the day he delivered them. The forces of safety were not interested in the bright expectations of applicable technology, since they have always feared the unforeseen consequences of progress. It is this fear which has helped keep traffic safety efforts more in the hands of unqualified laymen than in the hands of unfettered scientists and engineers. This is why the establishment must keep its policies trivial and stagnant. To raise the saving of 50,000 lives and prevention of over four million injuries yearly to the level of a well defined mission of national importance, excitement, and innovation would attract disturbing talents and resources and the serious attention of the President and Congress. The measure of the establishment's success to keeping traffic safety a subordinate goal in the nation's scale of priorities can be gauged by a news item from the Wall Street Journal of Sept. 17, 1965. It reported: "The Senate passed a two-year, $320 million highway-beautification bill designed to eliminate thousands of advertising billboards and junkyards from the nation's major roads. The measure would also provide $5 million for a study of ways to dispose of scrapped cars and $500,000 for a Commerce Department study of highway safety."



1. The subjects are: (1) laws and ordinances; (2) traffic accident records: (3) education; (4) engineering; (5) motor vehicle administration; (6) police traffic supervision; (7) traffic courts; (8) public information; (9) organized citizen support; and (10) research.
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:57 pm


Chapter 8: The Coming Struggle for Safety

On a September day in 1899, Mr. H. H. Bliss stepped down from a trolley car in New York City and, while graciously assisting a lady passenger to alight, was fatally struck by a horseless carriage -- the first recorded death by automobile. Not until 1,125,000 more fatalities and tens of millions of injuries had occurred did a Congressional Committee open hearings on the conditions that cause this massive casualty count. On July 16, 1956, Congressman Kenneth Roberts, an Alabaman and a firm believer in minimum federal government, opened the first session of the new House subcommittee on traffic safety by proceeding immediately to the subject of automobile design hazards. It was a promising start but one that remained little fulfilled in hearing after hearing through 1963. Congressman Roberts was surrounded by apathy and opposition in Congress and with hostility from the automobile industry and its traffic safety establishment. Even taking a look at the problem was suspect.

In spite of these obstacles and the lack of a full time subcommittee stall', Roberts performed some important services for the cause of traffic safety. One was to provide the first public forum for presentations on the vehicle safety issue by industry representatives and by physicians, engineers, and other specialists in crash injury research. These presentations have a continuing significance. The automobile makers' testimony, for example, reveals how little their present attitude, performance, and excuses have changed from a decade ago. They offered the jaded themes of their supposed concern with safety; their past progress in matters such as sealed beam headlamps and windshield wipers; the necessity of high- horsepower engines; the industry's thorough methods of quality control; the reasons why safety devices must begin on an optional, extra-cost basis; and the usual tributes to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and the safety standards of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The subcommittee members were taken on a tour of company proving grounds, were shown some barrier crashes, and were given lectures about National Safety Council figures showing that the vast majority of accidents and fatalities are caused by bad driving. General Motors' director of public relations, Anthony De Lorenzo, gave an extended account of General Motors' support of traffic safety councils throughout the country with funds and printed materials, and the involvement of company executives and personnel in helping to orient local safety activities of clubs, schools, and government agencies. "In this way," declared De Lorenzo, "General Motors has put its shoulder to the safety wheel in virtually every village, town, and metropolis in America."

Roberts also invited independent specialists to testify. The subcommittee heard from numerous physicians, such as Dr. Fletcher Woodward, Dr. Arnold Griswold, and Dr. Horace Campbell, who for so many years have observed at first hand the bloody consequences of interior vehicle design and have tried in vain to galvanize their profession into action for safer cars beyond the easy passage of medical association resolutions. The subcommittee also heard from engineers such as Professor James Ryan, William Stieglitz, Frank Crandell, Henry Wakeland, and Andrew White, a man who left the automobile industry to establish motor vehicle safety research facilities in rural New Hampshire. The subcommittee heard, as well, from representatives of the American Public Health Association, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Medical Association. All of those representatives underlined the ability of the automobile makers to make the inevitable accident safer. These dedicated physicians and engineers were far-sighted not because they perceived some hidden truths but because the society around them and the major decision-making bodies that could discipline the automobile manufacturers were so near-sighted.

What disturbed Roberts most was the response from the executive branch of the federal government. He found it very difficult to get information from federal agencies that dealt with highway safety matters; nor did his committee enjoy any of the other forms of cooperation that nourish good legislative policy-making. Very soon it became clear that the automobile was a taboo subject for most federal officials. What particularly incensed Roberts was the attitude of the Department of Commerce. In a rare flush of anger, he made known his displeasure during testimony on H.R. 2446 -- a bill providing that hydraulic brake fluid meet safety standards prescribed by the Secretary of Commerce. Roberts introduced the bill in 1961 after receiving evidence that many brands of brake fluid came to a boil at a dangerously low temperature. Such fluids are called "phantom killers" by automotive experts because under hard stopping conditions they vaporize, leading to total brake failure. By the time the damaged vehicle is investigated, the brakes have cooled, the vapor has returned to a fluid state, and the brakes are operable.

This had been a serious problem for many years before the first state law was passed by Minnesota in 1953. In 1961 only half the states had passed laws regulating brake fluid, and these mostly required conformity with the tolerant SAE minimum standards. All the laws were chiefly exhortatory in nature with nominal, if any, enforcement provisions.

Roberts thought federal legislation was needed. The official reaction from the Commerce Department was: "This Department is certainly sympathetic with the safety objectives contemplated by H.R. 2446. However, we would also emphasize that the several States have traditionally exercised regulatory authority over motor vehicle safety features; and it would seem that the entry of the Federal Government into the field of brake fluid standards regulation presents the basic question of the proper role of the Federal Government generally in the regulation of motor vehicle equipment." After thus lecturing the subcommittee about the bill's jurisdictional propriety in the light of "tradition," the department made this astonishing recommendation: "We would like to suggest that it might be helpful for the President's Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to give careful study to the basic question of the Federal Government's role in the regulation of motor vehicle equipment, before decision is made with respect to brake fluid standards." It might have been expected that the department would know its position on motor vehicle regulation, since it had finished in 1959 a $200,000 study entitled "The Federal Role in Highway Safety," which was ordered by Congress in 1956 specifically to "determine what action can be taken by the federal government to promote the public welfare by increasing highway safety." A draft version of this study was sent for review to the Automotive Safety Foundation and the National Safety Council, which may help to explain why by the time the study was published the government's role in vehicle safety was never defined.

Roberts told the department's spokesman, Charles Prisk, a cautious veteran of the Bureau of Public Roads and the principal author of the 1959 report: "Mr. Prisk, you know I have had a good deal of experience with departmental reports. This is not the first time that I have been confronted with the reluctance of the Commerce Department to go along with safety regulations."

Roberts also said: "I am getting tired of introducing bills and holding hearings on safety matters. This is certainly not a far- reaching bill. But it is a bill that can save a lot of lives. And when the Department continually comes up here and recommends against a very small step in the direction of the safety of our people on the highways, roads, and streets of this country, it seems to me that certainly we ought to investigate and find out what is wrong with the Department of Commerce.... They constantly opposed every effort the Congress made for safety in that field. I am not going to be satisfied until we find out what is happening at the Department level."

Roberts never carried through on what would have been a significant inquiry. But he did modify H.R. 1341, authorizing the federal government to establish safety standards for the motor vehicles it purchases, so that the General Services Administration got the job, instead of the Department of Commerce, which did not want the responsibility. In view of the odds against the success of Roberts' efforts, H.R. 1341 was a stroke of legislative genius. It was difficult for the automobile lobby to oppose a law restricted to government procurement of some 36,000 vehicles a year. Nevertheless, the lobby did oppose it. Although the bill passed the House in 1959 and 1962 by large majorities, the automobile industry managed to block it in Senator Smathers' subcommittee on surface transportation. The Automobile Manufacturers Association testimony against the bill argued that "nationally recognized performance standards already are available," and only duplication and expense would result from passage. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators echoed the AMA, declaring that the bill •would probably result in serious injury to the economy of this Nation ... and would create stagnation among automotive engineers and designers." The Automobile Manufacturers Association made clear that when it referred to "nationally recognized performance standards" it meant those of the American Standards Association and the Society of Automotive Engineers.

In the summer of 1964, with Senator Smathers no longer chairman of the subcommittee on surface transportation, Roberts spoke with Senator Warren Magnuson, chairman of the parent Senate commerce committee, and secured his endorsement of the bill in return for Roberts' support of a Magnuson bill providing medical care for commercial fishermen. After that the bill sailed through the Senate and was signed by President Johnson at his Texas ranch on August 30, 1964.

The clear legislative intent behind the law, now Public Law 88-515, was for the General Services Administration to emphasize vehicle safety in its purchase standards so as to exert pressure on the industry and get it moving faster in the engineering of all its vehicles for accident and injury prevention. GSA's administration of Public Law 88-515 during the first year of its enactment failed to carry out this mission.

The task of developing- the standards fell initially to Willis MacLeod of GSA's standardization division, and to his deputy, John Scott. Congress did not make their job any easier. No special appropriations were made available with Public Law 88-515 to facilitate the hiring of specialists and services of expert consultants by GSA.

However, the Roberts law was written in a very permissive manner. It did not limit GSA to prescribing only those standards whose features it could obtain and pay for in the next procurement year. The agency was perfectly free to establish standards that could point the way to future adoption and thus not only give the automobile makers advance notice but also provide a basis for stimulating greater competition in bidding for government business. GSA chose not to avail itself of this flexibility.

MacLeod and Scott did begin their work with sincerity and showed a determination to explore available knowledge from a variety of sources-industry, government, universities, independent specialists,. and physicians. Two advisory committees were created, one consisting of representatives from other federal departments and the other composed of the automobile companies, standards groups, and trade associations. The first standards had to be published by the summer of 1965 for application to 1967 model vehicles.

The Automobile Manufacturers Association invited the General Services Administration officials and members of the government advisory committee to a three-day tour of company facilities and consultations with company engineers. Soon after this early November meeting, General Services Administration officials held a formal specification- development conference attended largely by government and industry people. The synchronized performance of the four automobile companies, the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and the Society of Automotive Engineers almost appeared as if it had been preceded by a dress rehearsal. Their strategy was to point out what they could not do to insure greater safety, never to offer suggestions about what they could do. No data were volunteered to back up their restrictive assertions, nor was any information released about their work on safety, such as what they had done on steering wheel assemblies. They advised the General Service Administration to adhere to the "proven" safety features available as optional equipment and cautioned that within a few months the 1967 models would be "in the pan" except for minor alterations. To emphasize that the industry was not being overly parochial, the redoubtable satellites -- SAE, ASA, AAMVA, and NSC -- either rose in active support or implied concurrence by staying silent.

GSA published seventeen preliminary safety standards in January 1965 [1] and invited comments. Some GSA personnel believed that these standards would be substantially toughened by the June 30th deadline for the issuing of the final standards. Just the opposite occurred.

In February and March numerous detailed commentaries were received. The industry comments expressed approval of the standards that adhered to SAE or ASA standards or simply detailed optional equipment (without any performance requirements) that they were currently selling, or pressed recommendations for lowering or altogether dismissing other standards. Comments from independent specialists and government agencies recommend that many of the proposed standards be strengthened.

During this period a shift to the industry's viewpoints began. MacLeod's superiors, H. A. Abersfeller, Commissioner of the Federal Supply Service, and his assistants, George Ritter and Walter Roberts, began to take over more of the details and the communication with the industry. A final specification-development conference was held on May 19 and 20, 1965. A revised list of preliminary standards was presented by GSA for consideration. There was little indication then that the final standards which came out on June 30 would be even weaker than the draft standards. For example, the standards for padded instrument panels were reduced to the point of uselessness. A GSA proposed standard regarding the decelerative force of the head upon impact was reduced from a required 44 feet per second and 40 gs in 40 milliseconds in May to a required 22 feet per second and 80 gs in 60 milliseconds in June. This standard was such that out of a group of sixteen automobile makes built between 1953 and 1959 that were tested by John Swearingen of the Federal Aviation Agency, nine would have met or exceeded the present GSA requirement without padding. Swearingen considers all sixteen makes he tested as excessively dangerous. Another illustration of how the standards were watered down relates to the instrument panel control devices, which, according to the preliminary standard, were to be designed so as to be Hush with the panel surface or be detached by a force not exceeding forty pounds; this was weakened to ninety pounds in June. The steering column standard had provided for a permissible rearward displacement not exceeding five inches during a barrier collision test at thirty miles per hour; despite much data and expert judgment to the' contrary it was changed to five inches at twenty miles per hour on the basis of some uncritically evaluated cases presented by an anatomist, Dr. Donald Huelke, a protege of GM's Kenneth Stonex and consultant to General Motors and Ford. The glare-reduction standards were weaker than their January levels, to the extent that many 1964 and 1965 glare-ridden models meet the GSA requirements. What makes the GSA standards even more accommodating to the industry is that they assume the occupant is belted to the seat. This assumption means, for example, that the standards do not take knee contact areas into consideration.

Nothing particularly new happened between May 20 and the deadline for the final standards on June 30. Civil servants tend to shape their jobs along paths that avoid strong adverse reaction and great controversy. Reaction and controversy mean more work. The industry and its satellites are most capable of having a strong reaction and creating controversy. The consumer is not.

The General Services Administration says that it did not have the data on which to base standards stronger than the ones it established the first year. This "lack of data" argument seems largely specious. It does not take any more data, for instance, to have more stringent glare-reduction standards, more complete tests for door latches and hinges, and a stipulation of the area adequately wiped by the windshield wiper. The General Services Administration, in a landmark study by John Swearingen on instrument panel design hazards, had data that it ignored completely.

The fact that during the month preceding the June 30 deadline the General Services Administration did not inform other federal agency representatives on the government advisory committee of its decision to weaken the standards was entirely inexcusable. GSA was far more solicitous of the industry than of the government. It permitted company engineers to see and comment on the final draft of the standards, right up to the lime when the draft had to be sent to the printers. The final standards in general represented quite a triumph for the automobile makers. They obtained a government endorsement of existing optional safety devices and approval, by and large, of existing levels of safety. GSA was directed toward the "gadget" approach to safety and away from the much more fundamental structural approach. After extensive interviewing of automobile company engineers, Automotive News reported that "most automotive people are quite receptive to the General Services Administration approach because they have representatives on the General Services Administration committee permitting them to influence the selection of reasonable features."

Comments by two top industry executives illustrate the extent to which the General Services Administration officials fulfilled the law's intent to exert Influence on the manufacturers to engineer higher safety levels for their 1967 models than contemporary vehicles offered. Arjay Miller, president of the Ford Motor Company, said in May 1965, "Although some reports may lead the public to believe that the GSA standards will be new, in most instances they are similar to or stem from our current engineering practice." In July 1965, Mr. Miller said, "Our newest [door] latches exceed ... General Services Administration requirements. The safety features we have added to our cars over the years include almost all the requirements recently announced by the General Services Administration for vehicles purchased by the government starting with 1967 models." In the same month, July 1965, James Roche, the president of General Motors, made note of six GSA standards that covered optional equipment long offered by GM. Then he added, "With respect to other GSA specifications, I would like to point out that General Motors cars already have a standard gear quadrant, safety glass, standard height bumpers, as well as door latches, hinges and anchorages for seats and seat belts -- all of which meet or exceed the standards established. Our current steering wheels more than satisfy these GSA requirements." In a statement submitted to the Ribicoff subcommittee, General Motors even claimed that its door hinges, which the Cornell study showed to have failed in collisions at a rate many times higher than competing vehicle hinges, "for all of these years from 1959 through 1965 more than satisfy the 1967 GSA requirements."

It is understandable why, in view of such a dismal performance, GSA officials did not present any technical justification for their standards, either on a formal basis or when requested by non-industry sources to do so. Instead, inquirers were given useless generalities which only confirmed the shallowness of the specifications. GSA's administration of Public Law 88-515 during 1964 and 1965 does not provide much ground for optimism over standards the agency is committed to develop in succeeding years.

Less than two weeks after the GSA standards were published, the United States Senate broke a sixty-year silence on the vehicle safety issue and, through Senator Abraham Ribicoff's subcommittee on executive reorganization, opened its first hearings. Each of the four domestic manufacturers was invited to testify. General Motors led off with its chief executives, Chairman Frederic Donner and President James Roche. From their testimony and attitude, it appears that Donner and Roche walked into that crowded hearing room on July 13 thinking that it would be just like 1956 and the Roberts subcommittee all over again, with perhaps a bone or two thrown in to pacify some headline-hunting Senators. Both presented statements whicl1 once again repeated the routine that has characterized all of General Motors' statements on safety through the years. Roche spoke about the progress of the past, beginning with the 1910 models. It was just after that date, he reminded his audience, that "all driver compartments were equipped with doors to keep the occupants from falling out." After devoting a quarter of his testimony to cataloguing past advances, he went on to discuss the company proving grounds, the rigorous company testing, the need for better vehicle maintenance by car owners, the support General Motors gives to driver education, and other financial support the company gives to the private safety movement. Then Roche told the Senators that the proper role for the federal government was to encourage and assist the states and local communities," whose traffic safety responsibilities include the vehicle itself, since these communities "are obviously most familiar with their own conditions with respect to the safe operation of automobiles."

Donner's testimony reaffirmed the optional approach to safety which goes back to the days when headlamps and bumpers were options. "Some things must be built into the motor car because they are essential to its operation. Examples are brakes, steering, and lights. Other items must be sold to the customer on their merits." He cited directional signals -- first introduced by General Motors on an optional basis in 1939 -- as a self-evident safety device and deplored the lack of prompt customer acceptance, which Impeded General Motors from standardizing this device on all its cars. Donner said that the "decision to offer an item as optional equipment recognizes what I believe is the basic freedom of the customer to pay the cost of tailoring a car to his own specifications or rejecting whatever he may not want." He neglected to explain why costly styling features were non-optionally imposed on the consumer, or whether General Motors ever clearly informs the car buyer about the safety purposes of particular options. He ignored the obligation of a manufacturer to make such features standard and not leave the decision to endanger innocent third parties, in other cars or on foot, up to the customer's acceptance of an inflated-price option. Rather, Donner was insistent that this optional policy "must be the approach" until there is high general acceptance or "there are other compelling reasons for standard installation."
Since he was speaking of attachable safety features, "safety" (without legislation) was not such a compelling reason. He re-emphasized his point: "I come back again to the climate of public acceptance. If we were to force on people things they are not prepared to buy, we would face a customer revolt; and departing from his prepared text, Donner added, "and we want to stay in business." [2]

At the time Donner was speaking, an advertisement about the Skylark Gran Sport run by his company's Buick division was circulating the country under the title "Son of Gun." The advertisement asked: "Ever prodded a throttle with 445- pound-feet of torque coiled tightly at the end of it? Do that with one of these and you can start billing yourself as The Human Cannonball." It is obvious that automobile company management is taking little responsibility for the climate of public acceptance which its tor rent of advertisements are helping to nurture throughout the country. As American Motors' Roy Abernethy once stated: "The influence of advertising on consumer attitudes is widely accepted as a substantial one."

What prompts automobile makers to refer in testimony or speeches to safety devices or other distinct, observable features instead of the far more important structural advances in safety engineering is the ease with which devices can help shift attention to the area of consumer acceptance and extra-cost options instead of the manufacturers' responsibility.

Donner did have an olive branch for Ribicoff's subcommittee. Just the week before the hearings it had happened that General Motors had arranged to give the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a $1,000,000 grant to be spread over the next four years for a "long-range, in-depth, quantitative analysis of all facets of the safety problem-the car, the road, the driver, and their various interactions." This grant breaks down to $250,000 a year, less than a third of Donner's annual earnings from General Motors. Though no Senator inquired how much "in-depth" analysis of anything such a modest sum would buy, given the majestic sweep of the grant's subject matter, General Motors' testimony did not satisfy either Senator Ribicoff or Senator Robert Kennedy. The question-and-answer period left them even less satisfied.

Donner and Roche refused to tell the subcommittee how much their company spends on collision safety research, claiming it was impossible to segregate it from their other engineering and development programs. When asked about the Cornell report on the exceptional fragility of General Motors' door hinges, GM's engineering vice president, Harry Barr, first said he was "not familiar with such data." After Ribicoff and Kennedy persisted with their questions, Barr suddenly recalled enough of the report to attempt to explain it away.

After one berating by Ribicoff, Donner and Barr inadvertently burst forth defensively with replies that indicated how remote General Motors' top management has been from the subject of vehicle safety and how few resources were being allocated to it. Donner said, "We got very concerned as we dug into this and found that we had nowhere to go." That is why "we wanted to see if we could get an institution like MIT to make a really in-depth study." Barr said that Dr. Huelke's investigations of one hundred and fourteen fatal accidents (financed by a grant of $15,000 from the U.S. Public Health Service) had given General Motors more useful information on second collision passenger impacts in General Motors' cars than the company had accumulated in the preceding ten years.

Senator Kennedy pressed to find out how much was spent for research such as that conducted by Dr. Huelke and whether General Motors had similar investigative arrangements elsewhere in the country. Donner and Barr declined to answer the first question, for obvious reasons. As for the second, Barr said, "We have not found another dedicated doctor that is doing this type of work." Kennedy asked whether he had tried to find people in other areas to do this kind of research. After much evasiveness, Barr simply stated: "No, I have not." Kennedy was visibly nettled by what he properly grasped to be the very low priority given crash safety research by General Motors. What followed was a rapid exchange of such electric intensity that the hearing room was hushed into total stillness.

Kennedy: What was the profit of General Motors last year?

Roche: I don't think that has anything to do --

Kennedy: I would like to have that answer if I may. I think I am entitled to know that figure. I think it has been published. You spend a million and a quarter dollars, as I understand it, on this aspect of safety. I would like to know what the profit is.

Donner: The one aspect we are talking about is safety.

Kennedy: What was the profit of General Motors last year?

Donner: I will have to ask one of my associates.

Kennedy: Could you, please?

Roche: $1,700,000,000.

Kennedy: What?

Donner: About a billion and a half, I think.

Kennedy: About a billion and a half?

Donner: Yes.

Kennedy: Or $1.7 billion. You made $1.7 billion last year?

Donner: That is correct.

Kennedy: And you spent $1 million on this?

Donner: In this particular facet we are talking about ...

Kennedy: If you just gave 1 per cent of your profits, that is $17 million.

This tug of war sent the Ford and Chrysler representatives in the audience rushing back to their typewriters to make revisions and additions to their prepared statements. Both companies were more specific than General Motors in the role they visualized for the federal government The industry, of course, would take care of the vehicle. Chrysler urged the establishment of a federally-financed center to look into accident causation, to study the "sociological and psychological factors" involved in operating automobiles, and to educate consumers to buy and use proven safety devices offered by the industry. Ford recommended a similar long-range program, sponsored by the Department of Commerce and contracted to private industry and universities, to study the driver, the highway, and law-enforcement -- those weaker links of the chain linking the elements needed for safer highway travel. The Ford president, Arjay Miller, stated that at present "industry facilities for vehicle design and testing are the strongest links" in this chain.

During the two-hour hearing, Miller put on a long presentation which left little time for questioning. Learning of the no- nonsense treatment accorded General Motors, he prepared a three-page addendum outlining ten areas of increased activity by Ford in fulfilling "our responsibilities in the safety field." Ribicoff was intrigued by the way the automobile companies suddenly began pledging more attention to safety because of a brief public exposure at a Congressional hearing. But the pledges were vague, unenforceable, and designed to fend off any move for regulation. Safety remained solidly in the corporate embrace of the "trade-off."

Having helped focus Congressional attention on vehicle safety, the question now is how far the Ribicoff subcommittee will go to get at the roots of the problem and propose genuine solutions to it. An idea of the difficulties that any such effort will be likely to encounter can be imagined from knowing the continuing struggle to establish the first public tire safety standards in this country. In 1959 The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article entitled "Tire Troubles," which told of the tire industry's concern about the hazards of over-loaded original-equipment tires and the inadequate recommended air pressures for the growing weight of the new cars. The article quoted an Akron tire engineer as saying, "Tire overloading has been a problem for the thirty years I've been in the business, but it started to become acute in the 1950's." The tire industry, it continued, had been trying to get the motor companies to buy larger tires to avoid this overloading. The Wall Street Journal described why it was bad to overload tires. "The constant Hexing builds up terrific heat in the tire for the new cars. And heat is the worst enemy of a tire. It weakens the fabrics embedded in the rubber and saps the strength of the adhesive which holds together the various layers of fabric and rubber of which a tire is made." This leads to shorter tire life and blowouts long before the tread wears down.

Two years later, Karl Richards of the Automobile Manufacturers Association told the Roberts subcommittee that "tire problems today are mainly concerned with improper use, maintenance, and replacement." Again it was the motorist's responsibility. Again there was no problem with the tires as they were received on the original vehicle.

About this time, New York State Senator Edward Speno began to receive letters from around his state complaining in some detail of new tires on new cars that mysteriously blew out after a few hundred or few thousand miles. The more Speno looked into the matter the more he learned of the inability of the tire buyer to know what he is buying. There were no reliable purchasing guides or any law anywhere dealing with tire safety standards. Any quality of tire could be sold, even those advertised for $7.95 as "perfect for in-city driving." Speno's legislative committee visited Akron, Ohio, home of four of the big five tire companies, on September 23 and 240 1963. At a dinner given in the committee's honor by tire company leaders, Speno proposed the establishment of minimum safety performance standards for new automobile tires. Stunned silence greeted the end of his speech. One dinner guest spilled both his coffee and his after-dinner liqueur onto the man seated on his left. Speno had not only said something no one had ever said before, but it sounded as if he meant it.

The tire industry decided to cooperate with Speno in order to have a voice in negotiating the contents of the tire bill that was to be drafted. After several meetings with Speno and his technical consultants, tire company representatives, headed by those from Goodyear, prevailed upon Speno to limit the bill to standards for blow-out resistance and overloading. The sections on skidding and cornering standards were dropped. Late in 1963, the automobile industry told the tire companies crisply that there was to be complete and total opposition to any tire legislation. There followed what veteran observers at Albany called some of the most intensive and improper lobbying ever seen on those legislative battlegrounds.

Speno told the American Trial Lawyers Association in August 1964 how the tire industry began applying pressure. "In January," he said, "I received at my home a call from Akron from the president of one of the big companies, a very friendly call. It had to do with finances for my next election campaign and national public relations expenses. 'You're not serious about this legislation, Senator: he said. I'm not categorizing the nature of the phone call. I'm just telling you it happened."

Another meeting was held between Speno and leading tire company representatives in Albany on February 19, 1964. Speno agreed to numerous modifications requested by the companies, including deletion of the overloading section which the automobile industry so violently opposed. They then surprised him by saying they would support the bill at the March 4th hearings. At that hearing, Speno was surprised again. The Rubber Manufacturers Association, the Goodyear representative, the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and automobile company spokesman all stood up and totally opposed the bill. The Senate passed it, but the lobbying paid off in the Assembly where the bill was never brought to a floor vote.

On July 1, 1964, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) announced voluntary agreement among the tire companies to adhere to minimum tire standards promulgated by the RMA. The objective of this move was to take the steam out of any further legislative drives. The RMA standards were so obviously incomplete, weak, and unenforceable that both tire and automobile industries turned to another of their controlled agencies, the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission (VESC) to write slightly more stringent standards that would have an official facade.

In September, the managing director of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, Harry Williams, recommended to the Speno committee in a letter and press release that it refer its tire legislation and all other automotive safety bills to the VESC which, Williams implied, was far more qualified to deal with such technical problems. The notorious background, purpose, and structure of the VESC as a tool of the automotive industry and as a palpable undermining of state legislative initiative is fully documented by the minutes of its meetings and its performance to date. Speno, who initially approved the bill making New York state the first to adhere to the compact creating the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission in 1962, is so repulsed by its subversive effect on the integrity of the governmental process that he is considering a move to have the state withdraw from the compact.

Interest in tire hazards began in Washington after Senator Gaylord Nelson med a bill in the Senate to establish tire safety standards. Complaints from motorists, automobile clubs, and tire dealers poured into Nelsons office. They applauded his statement of the need to assure motorists that the tires they are buying are safe. One California tire dealer wired: "You are right -- many motorists are riding on a time bomb." The insidious aspect of this problem is that when the "bomb" explodes it is the driver who takes the responsibility.

Similar complaints were coming into the Federal Trade Commission, which finally decided to hold hearings in January 1965 on tire safety, size, grade, and quality. These hearings brought forth testimony from specialists in industry and government that visibly shocked some of the FTC commissioners. FTC chairman Paul Rand Dixon told the Senate Commerce Committee (which began its hearings in May) what the record had produced: "Our hearing contains substantial testimony as to the inadequacy of these Rubber Manufacturers Association standards.... The specific safety problems which were developed at greatest length during Our hearing relate principally to the matters of tire size and the so-called practice of overloading, which are interrelated. Overload is the situation which exists when the curb weight of a vehicle plus the designed load capacity in terms of passengers and luggage exceeds the load carrying capacity of the tires with which the vehicle is equipped. The matter of tire size is directly related to the overload problem in that, all other things being equal, the size of the air chamber and the amount of inflation pressure therein determines the amount of load the tire can bear.

"Our record contains a number of statements to the effect that many original equipment tires mounted on new cars are inadequate to safely carry the passenger and baggage load the vehicle is designed to carry. One tire manufacturer stated that 'over the years, vehicle manufacturers, in an attempt to cut costs, have cut down the amount of tire they are designing on to their vehicles, and that some vehicles are overloaded when they are empty of passengers or baggage.'"

Repeatedly the problem of overload was traced back to the automobile manufacturers, who chose not to present themselves before the Federal Trade Commission. After it became obvious to the commissioners that cost-cutting and the car makers' obsession with the soft ride were the key reasons for the motorist getting an undersized tire, Commissioner Philip Elman wondered aloud whether the absence of the automobile companies hadn't turned the hearing into a performance comparable to Hamlet without the Danish prince.

A Goodrich executive explained how the automobile industry chooses tires for new cars. "For example, with a six passenger sedan, the weight of three passengers is added to the curb weight of the vehicle to determine the load that is to be used to select the tires." All the major tire companies and the Rubber Manufacturers Association refused to be drawn into any criticism of the automobile industry -- their biggest customer -- though some of the assistants to the spokesmen in the room were heard quietly cursing the automobile makers for forcing them into this predicament of trying to defend the indefensible.

Chairman Dixon later told the Senate Commerce Committee that the replacement tire market provided a great deal of consumer confusion and deception. "We believe confusion and deception are the results inherent in the existing situation where the approximately 950 different tire names currently marketed represent the products of approximately 120 private label marketers and 14 tire manufacturers; where tires may be designated as to quality, i.e., 'premium,' 'first line,' 'second line,' etc., regardless of the lire's inherent quality or safety; where the price of the tire has no discernible relation to its quality or safety level; and where many of the descriptive terms employed, such as 'ply rating,' '100 level,' and other grade designations, have no real meaning or definitive value in the absence of uniform standards. Testimony adduced at the hearing reflects that one manufacturer's 'first line' tire may be inferior to another manufacturer's 'third line' tire; and a manufacturer may supply a tire represented by him as a 'third line' tire to a private label marketer who is free to designate it as his 'premium' tire."

The commissioners listened incredulously as they heard John Floberg, secretary and general counsel of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, offer this steely assurance at the end of the hearings: "I submit that the best standard, the time- tested and proved standard and the appropriate free enterprise standard of quality should be the one that has in the case of tires, as in the case of other consumer products, worked most satisfactorily; namely, the discriminating and sophisticated taste of the American consumer." A leading National Bureau of Standards tire expert has said that he could not compare tires reliably for his own private purchase from the information available on the marketplace. Yet Mr. Floberg would impute such discernment to the average consumer.

There was only one candid statement submitted by a tire manufacturer. This came from Harry McCreary, Jr., chairman of the McCreary Tire and Rubber Company, longtime producers of replacement tires. McCreary argued for the need to inform the car driver, by a visible decal, of the net number of pounds of people and/or baggage which can be put into the vehicle before any tire becomes overloaded. "Then," he said, "if the driver insisted on piling in more people and/or baggage, he would at least know that he was skirting the danger area. As things stand now, the average driver simply doesn't give any thought to the matter-because no one has ever told him that he was placing himself, his passengers and every oncoming driver in a potentially dangerous situation."

McCreary told of the hold which the automobile makers have on the tire companies by virtue of their great purchasing power. "When Detroit snaps its fingers, Akron jumps through the hoop -- backwards, if necessary.... [The1decision as to what kind of a tire will go on those new cars is made in Detroit."
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

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PART 2 OF 2 (CH. 8 CONT'D.)

Henry Wakeland, automotive consultant to the Speno Committee between 1961 and 1965, gave the Senate Commerce Committee some documented illustrations. The committee purchased three tires labeled "Safety Special," manufactured by a Firestone subsidiary, and sent them to the National Bureau of Standards for testing. The bureau reported that the tires failed the endurance test well before the end, being unable to hold air. One of these •Safety Specials" was cut apart and showed tunnel-like voids all around the circumference. Referring to the absence of any public standards, Wakeland observed: "It is even legal to design tires this way, holes and all. Furthermore, when these tires blowout, there is not one police investigator in a hundred who would detect any tire problem. A blowout through one of those voids would have to be detected by an expert."

Wakeland then provided the committee with a clinching argument. The Automobile Club of New York (the state division of the Automobile Association of America) equipped twenty of their staff cars last year with brand-new premium tires of one of the best known names in the rubber industry. The tires were of a kind that had been advertised as the safest tires in the world. These tires retailed at well over fifty dollars each. He described what happened: "With the new tires in use, staff people began to have close calls in their driving, being unable to stop, and skidding unexpectedly. The Club tested several cars, comparing the premiums with much lower priced tires of competitive makes. The skids happened more readily and were between twenty and eighty per cent longer than skids with the rather ordinary lower priced tires. A Club representative told the Speno Committee Staff that the manufacturers took back the entire group of tires and he' thinks it also pulled back stock from warehouses. The manufacturer actually changed his rubber compounding."

The tire company did not warn motorists to whom it had sold these tires and who are driving around on them. (The New York AAA preserved the anonymity of the company by not even advising its members to jettison those tires.) And as Wakeland concluded, "all of this is still perfectly legal in New York and everywhere else."

The Senate tire hearings were significant for future legislative thinking on vehicle safety. The attitude toward public law and public safety prevailing at the Department of Commerce was clearly stated by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce, J. Herbert Hollomon. There was no doubt about the strong need for tire standards, he stated, but the Department of Commerce preferred the voluntary, cooperative approach. "However," Hollomon said, "the Department would not object to legislation placing discretionary authority in the Secretary of Commerce to issue mandatory standards if in his discretion he determines that voluntary tire standards do not provide adequate safety requirements for the motoring public." The Secretary of Commerce, John Connor, a member of the General Motors board of directors until his appointment to the cabinet post in January 1965, did not display much enthusiasm in establishing government standards. His blanket defense of the automobile industry's record and policy on vehicle safety before the Ribicoff hearings in March indicated that he had a detailed grasp of all the customary assertions. Alluding to his personal experience at General Motors directors meetings, Connor was categorical in his statement to Senator Ribicoff. Regarding safety features, he said, "There is no lack of emphasis on the part of the manufacturers."

Senator Vance Hartke, who conducted the Senate tire hearings, heard Hollomon's conclusions with some wonder. He asked, "Why is the Commerce Department so reluctant to move in this field?" Hollomon reminded Hartke that the department welcomed Congressional authority to establish a research program to help develop better standards in cooperation with the tire industry, but the department did not want mandatory authority to set standards. His position, in sum, was that the "private government" of the tire and auto industry should be the preferred approach to public safety.

The Commerce Department's primary and overriding statutory mission is to "foster, promote, and develop" commerce and industry. It is the "house of business" in government. Given such a purpose, the department's leadership, its innumerable undisciplined advisory committees, and its omnipresent business constituency are generically unsuited to handle consumer protection laws. The consumer's interest would take second place to the interests of the business community. This is the reason why manufacturing interests always try to steer what consumer legislation they cannot defeat over to the Commerce Department. This is also the reason why they have fought any attempts to transfer the department's technical research institution, the National Bureau of Standards, to another department, or to give it independent status.

The automobile industry finally appeared on the scene of the tire controversy at the Senate Commerce Committee tire hearings in August 1965. Unfortunately, the committee asked the automobile companies and their trade association to appear together, as an industry, rather than individually. By assuming uniformity in viewpoint, the committee helped foster it and thereby lost the chance to explore company differences in tire specification policy. The most useful Congressional investigations into industry affairs have been those in which companies were questioned separately. The commerce committee accepted the idea that safety is not an object for competitive excellence but a subject of industry- side collaboration such as in the case of the vehicle pollution question. A frequent corollary to this idea is that public regulation is unnecessary because of industry self-regulation.

The automobile executives arrived that August morning at the hearing room and filled two benches. A single statement was read for the industry by Harry Barr of General Motors. Afterwards Barr himself answered questions from the Senators or gave them over to various friendly competitors for reply. The critical issues of undersized, overloaded tires, the consequence for safety of cost-cutting and what Henry Wakeland calls that "soft, squishy ride" were dodged. Barr's testimony consisted principally of emphasizing tire inspection and maintenance and the full capability of the states in handling tire matters under the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission. Barr conceded that much more had to be done to inform the car owner about proper tire inflation pressures. He urged the committee not to look into past practice but to concentrate on the pending improvements the industry was about to make.

The hearing failed to compile an adequate record chiefly because Senator Hartke did not fill the promise of his known talent for incisive questioning. He simply did not do his homework and therefore came to the hearing room with little background or knowledge of the subject The same was true for the other Senators on the committee. Unless Senators and Congressmen are willing to brief themselves properly, as Senator Mike Monroney bas done in the aviation safety area, the automobile industry will continue to come to hearings with their programmed statements and cinematic performances and leave with automobile safety still subjected to unconscionable erosions.

It takes an impressive kind of political stamina for elected representatives to stand firm for an interest that has no organized constituency. But this has been the very nature of the consumer's safety interest. Without too much difficulty a legislator can succeed in identifying himself with a safety cause and soon find himself being maneuvered by private and allied government forces into sponsoring superficial laws of little consequence other than to cancel out what contribution government can make in fostering greater safety.

The automobile industry is in a particularly strategic position to force the subordination of vehicle safety in the overall hierarchy of legislative and executive programs. The industry knows that the political success of any administration more and more is being measured by its success in promoting economic growth, in sheer quantitative terms. However much talk there may be of increasing the national welfare by better distribution of income and opportunity, and controlling the safety and health hazards of a mechanized economy, the first and primary goal is to see that the gross national product goes up and up. There is little difficulty in establishing the important role of automobile production and sales in the overall economic picture. One look at the input-output tables prepared by the Department of Commerce will clearly illustrate this fact. Automobile production utilizes 21 per cent of all steel, 49 per cent of all lead, 61 per cent of all rubber, 32 per cent of all zinc, 13 per cent of all aluminum and 58 per cent of all upholstery leather sold in this country. One business in every six is classified as automotive; one worker out of every seven is employed directly or indirectly in connection with producing, supplying, servicing, financing or transporting the automobile. Automobile spokesmen never fail to cite these figures whenever they want something from government, or want to block the government from acting on certain measures.

During the House hearings on the excise tax cut in 1964, Richard Cross of the Automobile Manufacturers Association told the Congressmen: "Need I comment on the essential role of the automobile in the growth of the American economy? Fifteen per cent of our economy, one-seventh of our total economy, the bellwether, the leader of private enterprise, is our -- that is your -- automobile industry." At the same hearing, Congressman Charles Chamberlain of Michigan said: "It is essential to the continued health of the economy that all obstacles to its growth and stability be removed." Mr. Chamberlain is not the only politician who has got their message: Disturb or restrict the automobile makers and you jeopardize the entire economy.

As a privileged institution, the automobile industry has made an impressive record in Washington. Hearings reveal abuses, but legislation almost never follows. Senator Kefauver's lengthy hearings on its treatment of automobile dealers and the abuses of market power and concentration in the automobile industry spawned no laws to rectify the patent wrongs that had been so exhaustively documented. The industry's power is felt in the administration and enforcement of existing laws, as well. In the antitrust area there is sound doctrinal basis for taking action against one or more of the automobile companies, but it is not considered politically practical to do so. The Federal Trade Commission, which has known about odometer rigging for over three decades, never took action against the manufacturers for this deceptive practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is not at all satisfied with the evidence it is given by the automobile industry to determine improvements or deteriorations in auto quality for consumer price index adjustment purposes. The automobile makers permit only economists and marketing specialists, not engineers, to meet with Bureau of Labor Statistics statisticians. Selective information is given only to bolster c1aims of improved quality; the automobile companies put great pressure on the Bureau of Labor Statistics to accept these claims without their producing adequate data to support them. The industry then turns around and uses Bureau of Labor Statistics quality improvement credits as proof that the consumer is getting better automotive quality for his money.

The industry has been instrumental in pushing through Congress gigantic grants for more highways and in opposing the use of public funds for rapid transit and other surface transportation developments that would increase the efficiency, safety, and speed of the nation's transportation system. Like a Moloch, the automobile makers press for an increasingly larger share of everything economic. The result is that the American economy, the largest in the world, is being distorted by tendencies strikingly similar to those that operate in one-crop economies. It should be a matter of concern, not pride, that one of every live retail dollars in this country is being spent for automotive products. A modern technological society should be more efficient in getting around on the ground.

As expected, the automobile manufacturers want to sell more and more automobiles, regardless of the demand their production and use places on resources and consumer dollars, regardless of the gross imbalances in our land transport system, of the impact on land use and urban planning, and of all the other consequences of a flood of automotive products. It is clear that the sales success of the automotive industry is not simply due to the willingness of customers to buy, but also to public policy that ignores needs for rapid transit and builds the highways and provides other services that make possible the growth of the automotive subeconomy. It is also clear that the manufacturers are increasingly relying upon and encouraging a demand for automobiles which has little to do with a demand for transportation. General Motors' vice president, William Mitchell, pointed this up succinctly: "The motor car must be exciting and create a desire and not become mere transportation, or we will have just a utility and people will spend their money for other things, such as swimming pools, boats, hi-fi sets, or European vacations." (Or, it might have been added, education, clothes, food, medical care, furniture, and housing.)

Such an attitude is not likely to give much attention to safety beyond the minimum demands for it in the marketplace. And even these minimum demands, relating as they do to observable operating mechanisms, are restricted by a highly concentrated industry which, as George Romney, then president of American Motors, said in 1958, has adopted a 'common product philosophy" that has ended its "basic product competition." "Why should they promote customer interest in new product engineering possibilities that might eventually obsolete their existing production facilities?" asked Romney, emphasizing the limited consumer choice offered by the narrow quality of competition engaged in by automobile makers. What truth may remain in the classical economic notion that the public interest lies in the unhindered operation of the free market has been seriously compromised by a concentrated industry capable of substantially defining the standards of the marketplace. [3] Thus, out of the array of demands the public might make for the automobile, that of visible styling changes is greatly encouraged by the industry's promotion and advertising, while those of safety and nonpollution are not encouraged. According to Ford's Gene Bordinat, a new rear end on a car model costs its maker between twenty-five and fifty million dollars. Twenty-five million is more than the combined research and development expenditures of the industry on collision safety in the past fifteen years. If, as Ford's Donald Frey says, the customer cannot describe the kind of car he wants until the manufacturer shows him some ideas and innovations, and if, as GM's Kenneth Stonex admits, increased public awareness of automobile safety (stemming from the General Services Administration standards publicity) will produce faster adoption of vehicle safety features by his company, then there is a useful role to be played by both industry and government in worming the consumer fully about product safety. Yet the industry, by successfully blocking government efforts in this direction and by dominating the channels of communications through which the customer receives his information about automobiles, has obscured the relation of vehicle design to life and limb and has kept quiet its technical capability of building crashworthy vehicles.

The reference to "communications" pertains not only to the content of advertising and promotion engaged in by automobile makers, but to the impact which the massive sums spent ($361,006,000 in 1964 on auto advertising alone) have on the communications media's attention to vehicle safety design. It is more than coincidental that radio, television, newspapers, and magazines have so long ignored the role of vehicle design in producing the :first and second collisions. In a rare exposure, Newsweek described the operations of the "two-hatters, who both sell automobile advertising and cover the news beat for their papers. After Chrysler's preview in San Francisco last year, Paul Masson, two-hatter for Hearst's Journal-American, filed glowing copy and then called attention to his stories by writing a letter to Chrysler's director of public relations. 'Our publisher is pleased to go all out,' wrote Masson."

The automobile companies do nothing that discourages this depreciation of journalistic standards. The Newsweek article reported how Chrysler Hew more than three hundred newsmen to New York City. "They were bedded down at the Waldorf-Astoria, fed and watered grandly, and, of course, given a long peek at the firm's 1965 cars and trucks. The tab for all this chromium treatment -- $400,000 -- was picked up by Chrysler." Newsweek made it clear that there were leading newspapers which did not permit "two-hatting." The article made no reference to magazines indulging in this nasty habit But the same strains and inducements operate on all newspapers and magazines that rely significantly on automobile advertising. With all that money pouring into the till, it is not difficult to see automobile safety entirely in terms of the careless motorist. Some major magazines devote their news or feature sections to showing the reader the new model cars, which he could see just as well in the company's advertisements a few pages away. Several times a year U.S. News and World Report devotes cover page headlines to promotional stories about the automobile industry. Reader's Digest, the world's largest magazine, devotes several articles a year to automobile subjects. It has dealt with highway safety in terms of berating careless driving, advising drivers how to drive carefully and maintain their vehicles properly, and praising the quality and progress of automobile design. The Digest is no stranger to controversial causes, as its attack on cigarettes and its refusal to take cigarette advertising illustrates. When it comes to automobiles, however, it avoids criticism of the industry in spite of the judgment of its editors as to what constitutes a good story for its twenty million subscribers. For example, in the summer of 1963, an associate editor of the Digest, Walter Adams, had an idea for an article. "If we could point out to readers specifically what the various unsafe features of modern cars are, and if we could document our contention that these features are dangerous, we then could get at least some of these readers to looking for these features and avoiding them when they buy their new cars." Mr. Adams supported his point by citing the dangerous rear vision in his convertible and the reflection of the instrument panel on his windshield which "makes it hard to see the road and on a hot summer day has a sort of hypnotic effect that helps put [one] to sleep. My thought is that if only someone had pointed out such treacl1erous bits of design to me before I bought the car, I could have watcl1ed out for them and taken my money elsewhere. Most articles on safe automobile design take off on describing the author's idea of the ideal car. That gets us nowhere, because manufacturers can just ignore the whole business. I'd like to get an article on design they can't ignore because it sends the critical customer elsewhere."

Adams' sensible idea never developed into an article, but it was not because he could not obtain adequate information. Instead, the Digest published in early 1964 an article telling the country that today's cars are built better than they were in the old days. Apparently the magazine's publishers had sensed a widespread impression that this might not be so and had striven to correct it. Before and since, Reader's Digest has printed articles uncritically praising vehicle design and quality in the context of safety.

General Motors has made a special effort to persuade readers of opinion journals, Ivy League alumni publications, and scholarly journals that its tremendous powers of decision over automobile design are held by something more than an old- line, acquisitive corporation. The series of institutional advertisements called "General Motors is People," with headlines like "Discoverer," "Originator," "Perfectionist," and "Safety is His Business," have appeared in outlets like the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The Re porter, the Princeton Alumni Weekly, the American Journal of Sociology, and numerous engineering school alumni publications. These ads do not sell cars; they by to sell General Motors as a worthy keeper of people's trust.

The result of continuing efforts like this has been the automobile industry's preservation of its hegemony over the design of its products -- an independence unparalleled among the manufacturers of any other transport vehicle. Aviation, marine, and rail vehicles and equipment must adhere to public safety standards. These standards are as important for the principle they represent as for the safety performances that have been registered. The principle is that the rule of law should extend to the safety of any product that carries such high risks to the lives of users and bystanders. The automobile is the only product in America which continues to be sold year after year even though it kills thousands of people and injures millions more. If this continued marketing is evidence of the vehicle's importance, it also indicates how hard a bargain the automobile is striking with the American people. While the old diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and rheumatic fever are diminished as causes of death, the prominence of death by automobile rises. Today the motor vehicle is the leading cause of death among people between the ages of five and thirty and the fourth leading cause of death in this country. Car accidents account for over one-third of people hospitalized by injuries in the nation; they are the leading cause of injury to ears and eyes and cause over twenty-five per cent of partial and complete paralysis due to injury. In 1964, 47,700 deaths meant the extinguishment of about one and three-quarter million years of expected lifetimes.

Only the federal government can undertake the critical task of stimulating and guiding public and private initiatives for safety. A democratic government is far better equipped to resolve competing interests and determine whatever is required from the vast spectrum of available science and technology to achieve a safer highway transport environment than are firms whose all-absorbing aim is higher and higher profits. The public which bears the impact of the auto industry's safety policy must have a direct role in deciding that policy. The decision as to what an adequate standard of public responsibility in vehicle safety should be ought not to be left to the manufacturers, regardless of their performance. But the extraordinarily low quality of that performance certainly accentuates the urgent need for publicly defined and enforced standards of safety.

Two industry policies are especially inimical to a rational quest for safer automobiles. First is the all-pervasive secrecy that obstructs freedom of communication in the scientific and engineering communities. Company engineers are happy to benefit from the work of university engineering professors, but in return the university engineers are offered excuses about proprietary data, however purely technical or related strictly to safety it may be. Not only does this industry secrecy impede the search for knowledge to save lives -- presumably a common dedication for all men -- but it shields the automobile makers from being called to account for what they are doing or not doing. Secrecy preserves their control over how quickly safety innovations will be introduced. The perfect illustration of this is the curtain Ford has kept over its numerous prototype safety cars during the past decade -- not to mention industry opposition to the New York state prototype car project and to a similar bill on the federal level introduced by Senator Gaylord Nelson. Secrecy permits the industry to enjoy a double standard of proof. For example, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's demonstration safety cars have been criticized by auto company representatives on the legitimate ground that they were never crash-tested. Liberty's cars are scheduled to be crash-tested in late 1965, with public recording of the data by Derwyn Severy's group at UCLA. But the automobile industry has no plans to expose its vehicles to the same treatment. While it properly states that safety features have to be proven before adoption, it exempts from this stringent testing such features as sharp fins, glare-ridden chrome, hard-tops, wrap-around windshields, undersized tires, smaller brake drums, and front placement of fuel tanks in rear-engine cars (considered a dangerous collision hazard by many engineering authorities, whose findings are supported by mounting accident data).

The second policy inimical to the quest for safer automobiles is the industry's research and development commitment. Probably no other major manufacturing industry in this country devotes so few of its resources to innovations in its basic product. The automobile is not in line for any significant changes in the next two decades; this is the estimate of J. M. Bidwell of General Motors research laboratories and is also the understanding that the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory representatives carried away from extensive consultations with company executives and engineers.

Many scientists and engineers in government or outside the industry concur with William Stieglitz's observation: "It may well be that the evolutionary development of the automobile from the horseless carriage has gone as far as it can and that a totally fresh approach is required." This would mean innovation in an industry that has slowed innovation to a snail's pace, as shown by a glance at the list of "automotive highlights" since 1900 which Automotive News prints in its annual almanac issue. George Romney pointed to this problem before the Kefauver subcommittee in 1958 when he declared, "All companies In the automobile Industry have the benefit of the vast research organizations of the supplier industries and companies, and that area of research vastly outweighs the area of research and improvement that is occurring right in the motor-vehicle industry itself." Romney cited among other illustrations power steering and improved application of steel to automobiles as supplier contributions. The automobile industry has also adopted as its own a number of important advances that came from military transportation research.

An idea of how meager a sum the automobile Industry spends for safety innovations was given In 1958 by Andrew Kucher, vice president for engineering and research at the Ford Motor Company. His was the only public estimate given up to the summer of 1965. Speaking for the Automobile Manufacturers Association, Kucher told an audience of motor vehicle administrators: "Because we are thoroughly sold on this philosophy, the motor vehicle manufacturers spend between five and six million dollars each year in safety-oriented research programs. This expenditure is aimed at solving basic problems and also is a searching for new and better solutions to old problems. You may be interested to know how this research effort is budgeted. One company, [Ford Motor Company] for example, estimates that about one-third of its annual safety research budget of one million dollars is devoted to the problem of safely packaging passengers. Another third goes to safety control of vehicle components, and the last third to projects such as lighting and development of general safety equipment. In individual company organizations, brake development programs cost between two hundred and two hundred fifty thousand dollars annually. Studies of vehicle controls and stability range from one hundred fifty to three hundred fifty thousand dollars in specific company budgets. Visibility and lighting problems each are accorded budgets in the fifty thousand dollar range." Even granting Kucher a margin for exaggeration, the sum of five million dollars amounted to less than one-twentieth of one per cent of the industry's gross sales in vehicles that year. Ford was spending $333,000 on second-collision research and at that time was assumed to be in the vanguard of the industry in such work. There is no evidence that any greater sums were spent in succeeding years.

In July 1965, after refusing to tell the Ribicoff subcommittee how much it spends on second-collision safety research, General Motors released a statement saying that it spent $193 million in 1964 on "safety, durability, and reliability." Into this swollen sum went vast and indiscriminate manufacturing, quality control, and many annual model-change expenses -- none having any relation to improving the state of safety knowledge above existing levels, which is what the subcommittee's question pertained to. Nor did the General Motors statement designate any category for second-collision research. Not to be outdone, Ford and Chrysler followed by stating that they spent $138 and $78 million respectively in the areas delimited by General Motors. Ford's breakdown was more specific and listed 1965 expenditures of $700,000 for its new automotive safety center and $300,000 for designing and building of prototype safety cars -- indicating the outer limits of their research on crashworthiness. Considering such an allocation, it is understandable why the automotive safety center's director, C. R. Briggs, was being realistic when he told Automotive News, "You can't expect breakthroughs."

All these multi-million-dollar figures for safety and reliability did not fool anyone with any familiarity of the industry's actual commitments to the development and application to safety innovations. In 1965, General Motors' chief safety engineer, Kenneth Stonex, was still writing to individual physicians asking them if they could give him any data about maximum loads that a motorist can absorb should he strike the steering wheel or instrument panel. Ford was lending its new cars to Dr. Huelke to drive around for a week at a time so he could advise them that sharp edges or points inside the vehicle could hurt people. And Chrysler was dilatorily arguing that it was not getting enough police data on accident causation, while fully knowing that the Cornell data, the Harvard and Northwestern studies, and particularly the rapidly increasing variety and quality of human-simulation techniques, statistical and computer tools, and crash-testing permitted them many avenues for developing and evaluating safer designs.

Scientists in the Bureau of Public Roads estimate that the combined public and private support of highway traffic research (defined as the design and testing of safety measures and techniques) was eight million dollars at the most in 1964 -- the highest to date. This was broken down to two million dollars spent by industry, two million spent by state governments (mostly from federal disbursements) and private agencies, and four million spent by the federal government Some accident specialists, like Dr. William Haddon, would place the true figure for high-quality research much lower. He does not think there are more than ten competent scientists working full time in traffic accident prevention in this country. These are the resources being devoted to discovering measures to prevent what Senator John F. Kennedy called in 1960 "one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest of the nation's public health problems." At the eight million dollar level, this country is spending about $166 in research for every traffic fatality, without taking into account the more than four million injuries every year. [4]

With some 1200 or less fatalities annually in civil aviation, the federal government spent between thirty-five and sixty- our million dollars each year from 1960 to 1965 on research and development for greater air safety. This was in addition to what was spent for safety work by the aircraft industry itself. Expenditure of sixty-four million dollars for 1200 fatalities means over fifty-three thousand dollars spent in safety research per fatality. The Federal Aviation Agency and the Civil Aeronautics Board spent about five million dollars to determine the Cause of two Electra turbo-prop transport crashes in 1959 and 1960 and to find out how to correct the defect in other Electras.

Patently, such neglect of highway safety research is a rebuke to an affluent, technologically advanced society. The federal government's delay of decades in facing up to basic initiatives in vehicle safety is not without its price, for now the solution of the highway safety problem is fragmented and scattered among numerous federal agencies, each jealously guarding its presumed prerogatives and all either staunchly supporting or frightfully cowed by the automobile industry.

Federal activity in highway safety (apart from government employee safety programs) in 1965 consisted of (a) supporting research by the Bureau of Public Roads and the Public Health Service; (b) regulatory activity over the operational safety of interstate commercial trucks and buses by the Interstate Commerce Commission; (c) educational and state support activity by the Bureau of Public Roads, the Public Health Service's Division of Accident Prevention, and the General Services Administration (the latter by means of safety standards for government-purchased vehicles). These agencies with highway safety functions are quick to exclude the automobile itself from their area of responsibility. The Bureau of Public Roads and the Division of Accident Prevention have supported some university-based projects in accident investigation, tire skidding research, collision testing, and highway-vehicle communications systems. With few exceptions (the seat belt was one) these studies never yielded any policy recommendations affecting the vehicle; in fact, they produced virtually no policy recommendations at all. For the most part, the studies are not evaluated with the idea of translating knowledge into action. In the Division of Accident Prevention, the right to see these studies is granted at the discretion of the research grants chief. If he thinks an inquirer is not technically qualified to interpret the reports accurately, he can simply deny him access to the reports. The division has not even prepared summaries of these studies so that interested persons can learn what findings have been made as a result of this publicly supported research. One five-year grant for about $900,000 awarded in 1959 to a team of Harvard investigators to study fatal highway collisions at the scene was terminated after its fourth year for undisclosed reasons. There is a cloud over the published work of these investigators as a result and the Division of Accident Prevention has not done anything to dispel it, though to users of this information, it is essential that the division clarify its position. Whenever the Division of Accident Research is asked why it does nothing about known vehicle hazards, its answer is that it is primarily interested in the "human factor." If the "human factor" included executives of the automobile companies, the division's focus might have more immediate results. Unfortunately, the "human factor" is interpreted to mean only the driver.

The director of the office of highway safety in the Bureau of Public Roads, James Williams, and the chief of the division of accident prevention, Dr. Paul Joliet, say that the influence of the automobile industry on their operations restrains how far they dare go in criticizing or warning the public of vehicle design hazards. Both Williams and Joliet show adeptness in sympathizing with industry personnel on the one hand and critics of the industry on the other, depending upon which ones they are with.
The federal effort in highway safety in general and vehicle safety in particular suffers from the inadequate legislative authority of the groups that are required to administer it, from insufficient funds allocated to the effort, and from the lack of administrative consolidation that could launch a concrete program with a concrete purpose that would have the kind of high-level support that complex programs in atomic energy and space ventures have. But the highway safety effort has not received this high-level support (as President Johnson's highway beautification program did recently).

On February 20, 1957, when he was still a Senator, Lyndon B. Johnson expressed on the Senate floor a thought that regrettably is still true. He called the "deadly toll of highway accidents" a problem whose "very familiarity has bred either contempt or indifference ... We cannot abolish the automobile, but neither can we ignore the problems that it brings to us. There is a responsibility here which we must face." The Senator was proposing the establishment of an automobile and highway safety division in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare that, among other objectives, would "promote research into improved designs for automobiles ..."

A federal research and development facility where problems of automobile safety could be comprehensively examined and solved is only the first stage of greater federal authority extending to the establishment and enforcement of safety standards and their continuous upgrading. This function in turn must form a part of a larger highway transport research and development program for more efficient and safe travel, by means of a more advanced integration of the functions of highway and vehicle. The Johnson Administration is expected to formulate gradually an overall national transportation policy which presumably will involve a closer coordination of air, land, and sea transport systems and a more rational allocation of public resources, especially in the direction of high-speed rail systems and more novel forms of rapid land transit between cities. This policy may lead to an examination of the present inefficient and disparate administrative arrangements for various forms of transportation. The advantages of taking the Bureau of Public Roads out of the Department of Commerce and making it into a separate entity (called, say, the Federal Highway Transportation Agency) directly responsible to the President should be seriously explored. It could be the first step toward creating an overall Department of Transportation.

If the government is to be made capable of securing continually safer automotive design, it will require a sharply focused supportive constituency that is dedicated and skilled in pursuing the interests of safety. For until sufficient engineers, lawyers, physicians, and other specialists whose income and skills are pertinent to the building of the automobile or to its post-collision problems -- until these people assume the roles of leadership that their superior knowledge makes available to them, legislators and administrators will continue to display "contempt or indifference." What must be squarely confronted is the blurring of the distinctions between government and business under the guises of "partnerships," "voluntary approaches," and "advisory committees." The growth of government power in Washington is far from being a zero-sum game with business; rather it presents business with an opportunity to use government to its special purposes. Thus, as in other consumer protection areas in recent years, there is considerable danger of Congress enacting the "no- aw" law for automobile safety. The "no-law" law's chief purpose is to fill a genuine need with illusory matter. It impresses the remote public and relieves the nearby Congressmen by a facade of controlling a consumer hazard problem. In reality, it omits the safeguards that would prevent the existing framework of private government, fostered by trade associations and standards organizations, from being made part of public administration. The "no-law" law is ambiguous or makes no mention of enforcement (like the seat belt and brake fluid bills), provides no standards for balanced representation on advisory committees (or for how and when they should meet), does not consider the issue of indiscriminate adoption of private safety standards, requires no periodic progress report to Congress on administration and enforcement, does not stipulate that prescribed standards must be technically justified in writing that is publicly available, restricts authorizations for funds to a nominal or zero level, and is peppered with the word "discretionary" as to the promulgation and issuance date of standards. "Regulated" groups are adept at becoming unpaid public servants, with the public defined as synonymous with themselves. The Interstate Commerce Commission has been delaying the release of a tire accident study until those groups at whom it is primarily directed pre-screen the material in detail and resolve any differences before it is made public.

The regulation of the automobile must go through three stages -- the stage of public awareness and demand for action, the stage of legislation, and the stage of continuing administration. Since automobile safety ideally should keep pace with advancing technological capabilities, administrators have to do more than bold the line; they have to advance it. Without full disclosure, Congressional review, and participation by a consumer-oriented constituency of professionally qualified citizens, obsolescence and bureaucratic inertia will stifle the purpose of even a properly drafted law. Motorists may benefit from the efforts of dedicated and selfless champions performing this persistent vigilance, but these efforts will not be enough without a residual vigilance throughout the consumer public.

This vigilance can be kept up simply by understanding a few facts about automobile safety. First, safety measures that do not require people's voluntary and repeated cooperation are more effective than those that do. Second, the sequence of events that leads to an accident injury can be interrupted by effective measures even before there is a complete understanding of the causal chain. Apply these two cardinal principles of safety policy, proven in the control of epidemics and machine hazards, to highway safety and the spotlight turns on the engineering of the automobile. Furthermore, our society knows a good deal more about building safer machines than it does about getting people to behave safely in an almost infinite variety of driving situations that are overburdening the driver's perceptual and motor capacities. In the twenty to forty million accidents a year, only a crashworthy vehicle can minimize the effects of the second collision. Vehicle deficiencies are more important to correct than human inadequacies simply because they are easier to analyze and to remedy, And whether motorists are momentarily careless or intoxicated, or are driving normally when they are struck by another vehicle is entirely irrelevant to the responsibility of the automobile makers to build safe cars. Dr. Bernard Fox, a distinguished psychologist in the Division of Accident Prevention, after spending many years in research on the "human factor," concludes that the most economically, administratively, and technically feasible safety measure, and the one with the quickest and greatest results in saving lives and preventing injuries, is a crashworthy automobile. This is not a startling observation, except that it comes finally from a federal researcher who has stated his candid judgment.

A leading crash researcher and biophysicist, Dr. Carl Clark of The Martin Co. states: "Instead of the 40 mph barrier collision survival being a 'spectacular accomplishment,' it should be a routine requirement of proper car and restraint design. Indeed, without major modifications of car structure and size, by applying what we now know about crash protection, a fixed barrier impact of 45 mph should be experienced without injury, and crashes at higher speeds should be survivable." (A 45 mph crash into a fixed barrier, like a tree or stone wall, generates, for example, the same forces as a car striking the rear end of a stationary vehicle at more than 75 mph).

Engineers are not noted for making metaphors, but a safety engineer for one of the Big Three companies inadvertently offered an illuminating one to Automotive News (August 30, 1965) in describing his work: "It's like walking into a room in which there are a bunch of ping-pong balls on the floor. Then you throw another ball in the middle and try to keep track of what happens." That last ping-pong ball was safety, Dr. Donald Ruelke, one of the few outsiders to be brought into the inner sanctums of design studios and given the confidence of the three or four safety engineers at General Motors and Ford reported: "The auto industry has a small, dedicated group of individuals-almost a fifth column-working for car designs of greater safety."

One ping-pong ball among many presents a low order of probability. A fifth column indicates the activity is subversive of the dominant way.

At the basis of such symptoms and impressions is the unwillingness of the automobile companies to dedicate their engineering and investment energies into the kind of first line research and development that will produce the innovations that can make the automobile responsive to the safety requirements of motorists. Over the past decade in particular, the possibilities for completely new approaches to be translated into mass production hardware are almost programmable given certain allocations of men and resources. The gap between existing design and attainable safety has widened enormously in the post-war period. As these attainable levels of safety rise, so do the moral imperatives to use them. For the tremendous range of opportunity of science-technology -- by providing easier and better solutions -- serves to clarify ethical choices and to ease the conditions for their exercise by the manufacturers. There are men in the automobile industry who know both the technical capability and appreciate the moral imperatives. But their timidity and conformity to the rigidities of the corporate bureaucracies have prevailed. When and if the automobile is designed to free millions of human beings from unnecessary mutilation, these men, like their counterparts in universities and government who knew of the suppression of safer automobile development yet remained silent year after year, will look back with shame on the time when common candor was considered courage.



1. These were: anchorages for seat belt assemblies; padded dashboard and visors; recessed dashboard instruments and control devices; impact-absorbing steering wheel and column displacement; safety door latches and hinges; anchorage of seats; four-way flasher; safety glass; dual operation of braking system; standard gear quadrant PRNDL automatic transmission; sweep design of windshield wipers-washers; glare-reduction surfaces; exhaust emission control system; tires and tire safety rims; back-up lights; an outside rearview mirror. All these items were retained in the final standards, which were significantly weaker in many instances. Pedestrian protection was not considered by GSA, though its general counsel interpreted the law as permitting it to do so.

2. Medical Tribune, long a reasoned critic of unsafe vehicle design, commented on Donner's statement with unconcealed acidity: "It is somewhat difficult to picture a horde of sans-culotte consumers, waving red flags, attacking the castles of General Motors dealers, determined to rip seat belts, dual-braking systems, left-hand mirrors, safety tires, padded dashboards, etc., out of every car or die in the attempt."

3. In the sale of buses, buyer choice is almost synonymous with whatever General Motors chooses to offer. GM has over ninety per cent of the bus business in the country. Since 1957, the Southern California Rapid Transit District has desperately tried to persuade GM to improve the braking systems of its buses. It was not until 1965 with competitive bidding of a small Ohio bus manufacturer and the district's threat of public denunciation, that General Motors stated it would install better braking capabilities on new buses sold to the District.

4. This $8,000,000 for research should be compared with just one federal department's costs. In 1963, the Department of Defense reported that direct bodily injury, death and partial property costs of motor vehicle accidents involving active duty personnel amounted to $83,641,000. Moreover, $8,000,000 represents less than one-tenth of one percent of the direct costs of highway accidents in 1964.
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:02 pm

Appendix A


The visual design requirements listed below are some that can be evaluated easily as a car sits on the show room floor. A failure to meet one or more of these requirements means that needless hazards to life and limb have been engineered into the car.

Does the automobile you wish to rate meet each of the requirements listed below for visually safe design? If not, score it off by circling the corresponding number in box below.


1. The windshield wiper assemblies should not be bright chromium.

2. The windshield should not be tinted. (Standing outside, compare the appearance of your hands when the one is outside and the other is viewed through the windshield. If no tint is present your hands will look almost the same color and brightness.)

3. Stand In front and look through the car at objects behind it. There should be no major distortions, waves or other irregularities In the objects.

4. Each of the front turn signals should be at least 12 square inches in area.

5. Both front turn signals should be visible from every possible angle In front of the car. For example: You should be able to see them both while standing slightly in front and 6 feet to the side of the car.

6. There should be an outside rearview mirror.

7. Both red tail and brake lights should be clearly visible from every possible angle behind the car. For example: You should be able to See both the left and right sets of lights from a position 10 feet to one side of the car and slightly behind the rear bumper.

8. The top of the dash panel should be finished in a dull black or non-glossy dark color.

9. The instrument panel should not be darkly shaded by a wide long hood or deep covered well.

10. The numerals and pointers on the instrument panel should be large, of good contrast and readable at a glance.

11. The gear that the transmission is in should be instantly readable at a quick glance.

12. You should be able to identify all controls at a glance and to reach them easily.

13. The windshield should be free of distortions. These can be observed from the driver's seat by moving your head and noticing if outside objects bend or move irregularly. Move head up, down, and sideways.

14. The windshield should he free of internal reflections. These appear as ghost images around bright lights.

15. The windshield corner posts should be thin enough that with both eyes open an object 10 feet away, no matter how small, would not be hidden.

16. There should be no chromium on the inside of the windshield corner posts, on window trim or on the hood or fenders that can be seen by the driver behind the wheel.

17. There should be vision reference marks at the left and right front corners of the car. These may be fender ornaments or body contours that help the driver know the width and position of his car. They must not be shiny chromium. And they should be designed in a manner that does not present a hazard to any pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

18. In rearward view there should be no blind spots to interfere with backing or with perception at a glance of the location of other cars near you in freeway driving.

Form designed by Merrill J. Allen, O.D., Ph.D., Professor of Optometry, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.
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Re: Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the Amer

Postby admin » Tue Oct 29, 2013 10:03 pm

Appendix B


Members of the Board

On motion of Supervisor Dorn, unanimously carried, it is ordered that the following resolution be and it is hereby adopted:

WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors is responsible for the health and welfare of the nearly seven million residents of the County of Los Angeles; and

WHEREAS, in 1947 the Legislature of the State of California, under an enabling act, conferred the authority to control air pollution in Los Angeles County upon the Board of Supervisors, and in 1948 the Board of Supervisors implemented this authority by activating the Air Pollution Control District; and

WHEREAS, medical science has accumulated epidemiological, experimental, and clinical evidence that levels of smog now experienced in Los Angeles County seriously affect persons suffering from asthma, emphysema and other respiratory ailments, affect significantly the breathing of normal subjects during high exposure periods, and produce significant increases in lung tumors in exposed animals; and

WHEREAS, the Los Angeles County Medical Association has affirmed repeatedly that air pollution constitutes a hazard to the health of persons residing in this community, and, because of the polluted condition of the air, physicians practicing in Los Angeles County advised during one year about 10,000 persons to move from the area; and

WHEREAS, scientists in the field of air pollution control, among the foremost being Dr. A. J. Haagen-Smith, have demonstrated conclusively that continuing occurrence of irritating, noxious, health-impairing smog in the Los Angeles Basin results from automobile emissions; and

WHEREAS, health and welfare in Los Angeles County is being jeopardized by the exhaust emissions of 3,500,000 motor vehicles, burning about 7,150,000 gallons daily; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Supervisors, since 1953, frequently has made known to the automobile industry the emergence of facts concerning the effect of automotive emissions upon air pollution conditions in Los Angeles County and the consequences to public health and welfare being experienced; and

WHEREAS, in 1953 members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association entered into agreements to pool all of their findings concerning control of air-polluting emissions from motor vehicles, and in 1955 they agreed to cross-license to each other any developments In controlling air polluting emissions from motor vehicles; and

WHEREAS, at that time, and thereafter, spokesmen for the members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association asserted that as soon as they were convinced that motor vehicles contributed significantly to air pollution in Los Angeles County, and as soon as fundamental principles of control for motor vehicles emissions became known, these member manufacturers would undertake to have devices embodying these principles Installed upon the vehicles they produced; and

WHEREAS, because of this representation by the automobile industry, millions of dollars have been spent to develop such devices by companies that are not members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, such as American Machine and Foundry, Walker Manufacturing, American Cyanamid, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, Universal Oil Products, Arvin Industries, Ethyl Corporation, Norris Thermador, W. R. Grace, Chromalloy, Holly Carburetor, Clayton Manufacturing Company, Oxy-Catalyst Company and many others; and

WHEREAS, in 1960, there was enacted in the State of California, principally as a result of the efforts of this Board of Supervisors, Assembly Bill 17 known as the Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Act, for the purpose of dealing with the problem of motor pollution on a statewide basis; and

WHEREAS, under this legislation, within one year after the certification of two exhaust control devices, such controls would be required on new cars sold within this state; and

WHEREAS, on June 17, 1964, four exhaust control devices were certified, which started the time period running within which devices would become mandatory on new cars; and

WHEREAS, within two months thereafter the Automobile Manufacturers Association announced that automobiles of the 1966-model year would be equipped with exhaust emission control systems, which involved no new principles, but applied principles long known to the automobile industry; and

WHEREAS, if the Automobile Manufacturers Association had given the same attention to the problem in 1953-56 as they did after installation became mandatory, air pollution from motor vehicles would have ceased to be a problem in 1966, by which time vehicles with these control systems would have been produced and sold for ten years and hence most existing vehicles now would be equipped; and

WHEREAS, this was not done because of the aforesaid cross-licensing agreement and restraint of competition between the members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association; and

WHEREAS, the Owners of 3,500,000 motor vehicles in Los Angeles County are now faced with the prospect of having to equip their cars, at an advanced age and depreciated value, with exhaust emission control devices at a cost of $450,000,000 for installation and $150,000,000 for annual maintenance; and

WHEREAS, none of the certified devices, developed at a cost of many millions of dollars, will be bought by the auto industry to go onto new cars; and

WHEREAS, it is unreasonable to anticipate under these circumstances, that the developers of devices will continue to improve their devices so as to provide stimulus for the auto industry to meet the more stringent standards required in 1970 and 1980, with the increase in motor vehicle population:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Attorney General of the United States be requested to investigate the agreements between members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, in relation to possible violations of the laws concerning conspiracies, monopolies, product fixing, restraint of trade, and unfair competition; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that an investigation be made of the effect of the manner of implementation of these agreements upon the health and welfare of residents of the State of California; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Attorney General institute an action for the purpose of preventing further collusive obstruction to the control of air pollution from motor vehicles by the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and to assure full, open competition in automotive developments affecting the public health and welfare.

County of Los Angeles

I, GORDON T. NESVIG, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles, and ex officio clerk of the governing body of all other special assessment and taxing districts for which said Board so acts, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a full, true and correct copy of a resolution adopted on January 26, 1965 by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles, and ex officio the governing body of all other special assessment and taxing districts for which said Board so acts.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of the County of Los Angeles this 28th day of January, 1965.

Gordon T. Nesvig

GORDON T. NESVIG, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles, and ex officio clerk of the governing body of all other special assessment and taxing districts for which said Board so acts.
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