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Unsafe at any speed

3 years ago

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David Twohig | Engineer


6 December 2021

Does the name Ralph Nader ring a bell? Some of you may vaguely remember him as a candidate in the US presidential race of 2000. Nader was the ‘alternative’ candidate, running on a generally left-ish independent ticket against the blue and red front runners.

He became briefly notorious as having allegedly spoiled the Democratic vote, allowing George DubYa Bush to just pip Al Gore to the presidential post in the bizarre Florida recount which gave rise to the phrase ‘hanging chads’. In fact, Nader has run for US president at least half-a-dozen times, a perennial thorn in the establishment parties’ sides for four decades or so.

But to me, Nader’s most significant contribution to the world was his seminal 1965 book, ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’. It’s hard to exaggerate the impact of this book on the automotive industry. Nader, then a young and brilliant lawyer, published this book as an exposé of what he saw as unsafe design, engineering and manufacturing practices in the US car industry of the time.

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