By Ken Reed

Tiger Woods faces a long recovery from multiple leg injuries but I imagine he is very thankful that his horrific single-car accident didn’t result in much more serious injuries or even in his death.

Woods is in relatively good shape today because of several safety features in the Genesis GV80 vehicle he was driving, including a seat belt, airbags and a reinforced roof that helped protect Woods’ body as the vehicle rolled over.

The foundation of auto safety features like these is Ralph Nader’s 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed: the Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. The book highlighted a variety of unsafe auto design practices of automakers in general. In particular, it focused on how unsafe General Motors’ Corvair was. The book became a national bestseller and the general public became much more aware of the unsafe design of most automobiles in the 1960’s. The book also pointed out numerous safety features that could — and should — be part of the design of automobiles going forward.

Unsafe at Any Speed pushed Congress to act. The book led to a series of Congressional hearings and a Senate committee report found “disturbing evidence of the automobile industry’s chronic subordination of safe design to promotional styling.” Several landmark auto safety laws were subsequently passed under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. A new agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was also formed to develop safety standards and design improvements in the industry. In addition, Nader formed the Center for Auto Safety.

Since these safety measures were passed, the number of deaths from automobile accidents in the United States has fallen from 5.50 per 100 million vehicular miles travelled in 1966, to 3.34 in 1980 and 1.12 by 2015. Studies have estimated from 600,000 to 3.5 million lives have been saved over that time period.

Nader’s life-long consumer advocacy has led to safer cars. We can all thank him for his examination and critiques of the auto industry and the fact safety features like seat belts, airbags and anti-lock brakes are pretty much standard in the industry today.

Tiger Woods might go a step further and thank Nader for his life.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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