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Add-on lap belt, early 1960s
Add-on lap belt, early 1960s

In the 1960s, government authorities chose a policy of forced technological change to make cars safer. In 1961, Wisconsin became the first government authority to require seat belts in new cars. Some states required floor anchors to make it easier for car owners to install their own seat belts. By 1963, all new cars had floor anchors, and two more states -- Virginia and Mississippi -- required seat belts. Legislation passed by Congress in 1964 required manufacturer-installed anchors, padded dashboards, and other safety equipment in cars purchased by the federal government.

In 1966, Ralph Nader shocked the American people into a new awareness of the need for safer cars through his testimony in Senate hearings on auto safety and his widely read book, Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. Later that year, Congress passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This landmark legislation led to mandatory lap and shoulder belts and other lifesaving hardware in all new cars by 1968.

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