Ralph Nader on his book "Unsafe at Any Speed"
With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have become a fact of life for Canadians. But our reliance on them comes at a cost. Over the past 50 years nearly 200,000 Canadians have died in traffic accidents — more than were killed in both world wars combined. In addition, despite vastly improved safety measures automobile accidents continue to be a major cause of death of younger Canadians. CBC Archives takes a look at the long, slow road to improved traffic safety.
In this clip from This Hour Has Seven Days, the 31-year-old attorney talks about how his bestseller came to be, and his resulting battle with the auto industry.
• Unsafe at Any Speed sparked a federal investigation into the U.S. carmakers, prompting American radio personality Drew Pearson to say Nader "has had more impact on the automobile industry than any single individual since Henry Ford."
• Equal parts polemic and research project, Unsafe took aim at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler with claims that the carmakers resisted implementing life-saving safety features into their vehicles.
• The book singled out GM, whose Chevrolet Corvair Nader claimed included a suspension flaw that caused the car to flip during low-speed turns.
• Nader also cited GM's Buick Electra, Riviera and Skylark for design dangers. In this clip he criticizes the 1953 Buick Roadmaster for a widespread flaw that caused brake fluid to leak, resulting in useless brakes for thousands of drivers.
• In 1964, cars were responsible for more than 47,000 deaths and caused more than four million injuries in the United States.
• Statistics from the National Safety Council show that of all the transportation-related accidents in America in 1964 (including planes, boats, trains and ships), automobiles accounted for more than 92 per cent of deaths.
• Ralph Nader was born in Winsted, Conn., on Feb. 27, 1934, to Lebanese immigrants.
• Nader graduated from Princeton University in 1955 and Harvard University's law school in 1958. In 1959, he served six months in the U.S. armed forces before launching his law career in Hartford.
• In 1963, Nader quit his job and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C., where he landed a job working for assistant secretary of Labour Daniel Moynihan.
• After freelancing for such magazines as The Nation, Nader released Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965. The book was a sensation and prompted GM to launch a smear campaign against the young attorney.
• GM hired private detectives to investigate his past and tried to plant stories that questioned his sexuality.
• Nader successfully sued GM for invasion of privacy, winning a $284,000 US settlement and forcing the company's president to publicly apologize to him.
• Inspired by Nader's battle, dozens of young people, who came to be known as "Nader's Raiders," flocked to Washington to help him with his many projects. Led by Nader, the group investigated corruption in big business and government.
• In the 1970s, Ralph Nader founded Public Citizen - an independent organization that he headed - to oversee all of his various activist groups. In 1980, he resigned from the organization to focus on his campaign against corruption in multinational corporations.
• In total, Nader has established more than two dozen non-profit groups dedicated to investigating and upholding environmental, social, financial and political ideals.
• In 1996, he ran for U.S. president as a Green party candidate and lost, earning less than one per cent of the popular vote.
• In his 2000 presidential campaign he earned three per cent of the vote and was criticized for siphoning off enough liberal votes to cause Democratic candidate Al Gore to lose the election to Republican George W. Bush.
• In 2004, the Green party nominated David Cobb as its presidential hopeful. Nader ran anyway as an independent candidate, resisting calls from many Democrats (including John Kerry) to drop out of the race.
• Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee, praised Nader but said he "would hate to see part of his legacy being that he got us eight years of George Bush."
• To watch Ralph Nader question an executive from American Motors, go to the additional clip Facing Nader.
• To watch Ralph Nader personally inspect the safety of the new 1967 Ford Galaxie to the extra clip Road Safety: Nader's safety check.
Program: This Hour has Seven Days
Broadcast Date: Dec. 12, 1965
Guest(s): Ralph Nader
Interviewer: Warner Troyer
Last updated: August 19, 2013
Page consulted on December 6, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
The true story of Elmer the Safety Elephant and how he helped signific...
Lorne Greene reads a dramatic message about drinking and driving to 19...
A female safety expert stands up for women behind the wheel.
CBC Radio takes a look at a 1962 prototype of a safer automobile.
Car company executives defend their safety record during the 1960s.
American lawyer Ralph Nader discusses his shocking claims against the ...
A look at a 1969 campaign to convince Canadians to start wearing seat ...
A small car company presents its ambitious new design for a safer futu...
A full year after Canada's first seatbelt law came into effect, Mary L...
Heightened safety concerns and government pressure lead to a record ye...
Examining the safety of the soon-to-be compulsory safety feature known...
A CBC Television reporter tests out the effects of drinking on his dri...
A look at how the pioneering advocacy group got its start in Canada.
A look at whether elderly drivers should be forced to retire their key...
A look at how and why our culture is breeding angrier drivers.
A look at what can be done to reduce the numbers of pedestrian deaths ...
How the growth in cellphone use is posing a risk to our roads.
Are drowsy drivers as dangerous to our roads as drunken drivers once w...
With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have ...