Unsafe At Any Speed
November 30, 2015, marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ralph Nader's landmark book Unsafe at Any Speed. The book focused on the faulty rear suspension system of the General Motors Corvair, This defect could cause the Corvair to skid violently and roll over. The corporate negligence that had produced the various Corvair defects, Nader said, was "one of the greatest acts of industrial irresponsibility." More generally, Unsafe at Any Speed documented how Detroit habitually subordinated safety to style and marketing concerns.
The main cause of automobile occupant injuries, Nader demonstrated, was not the "nut behind the wheel" so often blamed by the auto industry, but the inherent engineering and design deficiencies of motor vehicles that were woefully unsafe, especially in terms of "crashworthiness" — no seat belts, etc.
The publication of Unsafe at Any Speed led to GM's contemptible investigation by private detectives and attempts to smear Nader, GM's subsequent public apology at a Senate hearing, and ultimately the 1966 auto and highway safety laws that have saved countless lives and profoundly accelerated the pace of auto safety innovation.
Nader continues to work relentlessly
Nader continues to work relentlessly to advance meaningful civic institutions and citizen participation as an antidote to corporate and government unaccountability. In light of recent revelations about Volkswagen's deceptive skirting of emissions tests, Nader's work is again proving its centrality in consumer advocacy. Not only did the publication of Unsafe at Any Speedspur the creation of many necessary organizations, it also provided a fundamental framework for protecting citizens from corporate malfeasance that is as effective today as it was in 1965.