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Life Saving Reasons to Be Grateful for Ralph Nader

— May 7, 2024

Their work stimulated greater attention to the Nixon Administration’s failures to protect the health of Americans. 

Ralph Nader. Lawyer, activist, author, consumer advocate, force of nature. At age 90, he is still active in the political and consumer advocacy fields. We all have multiple lifesaving reasons for thanking Ralph Nader.

1965  I have worked on air pollution control and auto safety issues since coming to Washington in 1966. I have seen so much good that Nader, and people he has inspired, have achieved since he published Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965.1

1966  Chief among the many people who have contributed to the auto safety progress is Joan Claybrook.  Her legal, political, and administrative skills, and her leadership have been at the heart of achieving auto safety progress since 1966.  Joan’s work is responsible for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and Airbags.2

American Lives Saved I am grateful to have helped get airbags into cars that save many lives today. NHTSA estimates that in the U.S. more than 50,000 lives have been saved by just frontal air bags by 2017.  And that number of lives saved by just frontal airbags has been growing by about 2,750 lives saved each subsequent year in the U.S. See Lives Saved at Table 6.3 

I have not found any recent NHTSA estimates for lives saved by side airbags in the U.S.  But an excellent earlier NHTSA study of all technologies showed that the number of estimated lives saved by side impact protection and side airbags as of 2012 were more than a thousand each year in the U.S.  See Table 3.4

Lives Saved Worldwide There are a growing, but currently unknown, number of Lives Saved Worldwide. There are now NCAP programs in many nations including Australia, Japan, Europe, Korea, China, and Latin America helping to save lives worldwide.5

Traffic Fumes are Leading to Millions of Commuter Deaths Each Year
Photo by Tan Kaninthanond on Unsplash

As I write this article, it is the week of Earth Day and Ralph Nader’s Raiders had published Vanishing Air in 1970 using some of what I told the interviewers about the lead in gasoline and automotive air pollution.

Their work stimulated greater attention to the Nixon Administration’s failures to protect the health of Americans. 

Subsequent issues that I worked on resulted in lead being banned from gasoline resulting in dramatically reducing lead poisoning rates of children in the U.S.  Catalysts were then added to vehicles and automotive emissions of lead, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide were greatly reduced.6 7


  1. Care for Crash Victims
  2. Airbags, Rating Vehicles for Safety & Saving Lives
  3. Traffic Safety Facts – 2018 Data
  4. Lives Saved by Vehicle Safety Technologies and Associated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, 1960 to 2012
  5. New Car Assessment Program
  6. Right v. Wrong: True Story on Air Pollution, Science & the Law
  7. 1970s Pollution Control Efforts

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