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National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. It required automobile manufacturers to institute safety standards to protect the public from unreasonable risk of accidents occurring as a result of the design, construction, or operation of automobiles. It also included nonoperational safety factors, such as highway design, and it empowered a new agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to mandate uniform safety standards.

Although automobile accidents were by 1965 the leading cause of death of Americans under 44, both government and manufacturers had largely ignored the issue. A series of events would unfold that focused national attention on automobile safety and culminated in litigation and automobile recalls in the ...

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