Ralph Nader: I used to hitchhike a lot, all over the country. At the time I never met anybody who hitchhiked more. I always hitchhiked, for example, from Princeton to New York, or around the East Coast, and I saw a lot of accidents. Sometimes the car I was in or the truck I was in would get there first. So it piqued my interest in it. You could see certain configurations, like the steering column rammed right back up through the roof. Of course, no one could have survived that kind of displacement of the steering column into them. When I went to Harvard Law School I became interested in the connection between legal standards for safety and automobile engineering design. At that time, it was all blamed on a “nut behind the wheel,” so-called, the driver. But I knew that the vehicle had a great deal to do with that because I had come across some Air Force-sponsored studies at medical schools. The Air Force found they were losing more men on the highways than in the Korean War — the highways in the U.S. — from traffic crashes. It began supporting research on how people can survive crashes if the immediate environment, say the vehicle around them, was crash-worthy. Padded dash panels, stronger door latches, collapsible steering columns, seat belts, shoulder harnesses, things like that. So I wrote a paper on automobile engineering design and legal liability and made recommendations. Lo and behold, the world didn’t stand up and implement them. So I started writing after I graduated from Harvard Law School. I’d write articles and I testified before the Connecticut and Massachusetts state legislatures. Nothing would happen. So I finally came to Washington. That’s when something happened. The Motor Vehicle Act of 1966, even though it was irregularly enforced — sometimes very little under Nixon and Reagan — it saved over 200,000 lives, millions of injuries prevented or reduced in severity.