From the Annals of Big Government – In1966, President Lyndon B, Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act. The two bills made the federal government responsible for setting and enforcing safety standards for cars and roads. “In this century,” Johnson said before he signed the bills, “more than 1,500,000 of our fellow citizens have died on our streets and highways; nearly three times as many Americans as we have lost in all our wars.” Detroit’s refusal to make safer cars was notorious and consumers had little choice at the time as foreign cars were almost non-existent on US roads. “Safety is no luxury item,” the President declared, “no optional extra; it must be a normal cost of doing business.”
Detroit managed to eliminate some of the safety standards in the original bill. Older readers will recall the decades long fight car makers put up against installing air bags. However, the impact of the NTMVSA was noticeable. All cars now had seat belts for every passenger, impact-absorbing steering wheels, rupture-resistant fuel tanks, door latches that stayed latched in crashes, side-view mirrors, shatter-resistant windshields, windshield defrosters, lights on the sides of cars and other protections. It is almost impossible to estimate the number of lives that was saved by these acts.
The Acts passed without a single negative vote in Congress – something that is unimaginable in today’s world.