Automobile safety problems received national attention in 1935 when Readers Digest published "--And Sudden Death." Publisher DeWitt Wallace had seen the aftermath of an accident, and he asked Joseph C. Furnas to write an article about auto fatalities as a social and technological problem. Furnas recalled, Wallace had already been sensing a rising tide of public outrage over the skyrocketing highway death toll.
Laced with candor, gore, and realism, And Sudden Death described motorists who struck interior hardware and suffered mutilation. Furnas blamed drivers for accidents and tried to shock them into better behavior. He did not recommend adding seat belts and other safety equipment; in fact, he advised readers to hope that they would be thrown out as the doors spring open. Furnas philosophized, At least you are spared the lethal array of gleaming metal knobs and edges and glass inside the car.
In the 1930s, Dr. Claire L. Straith, a Detroit plastic surgeon who specialized in reconstructing the faces and skulls of automobile accident victims, began a one-man campaign to eliminate injuries caused by steel dashboards, protruding knobs, hook-shaped door handles, and other interior hazards. He installed lap belts in his own cars, and he designed and patented a dashboard crash pad. Dr. Straith became nationally known for his one-man safety campaign; his ideas were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and he was often cited in newspapers.