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Ad for the 1926 Stutz with anti-sway protection
Ad for the 1926 Stutz with anti-sway protection

In the late 1920s, automobile manufacturers became aware that mechanical and body designs contributed to accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Many car makers began installing four-wheel brakes instead of rear brakes alone. Some introduced shatterproof windshields so that glass would not break into sharp pieces in a collision.

By the mid-1930s, media attention focused on the horrific consequences of traffic accidents prompted auto manufacturers to take a proactive role in promoting safety. Ads, articles, and sales brochures assured buyers that modern cars, which now had hydraulic brakes and all-steel bodies, were completely safe. But advanced forms of motorist protection such as seat belts and padded dashboards were not added, even though they were available.

Manufacturers argued that accidents could be prevented if government would adopt strict driver regulations and improve the driving environment. In 1937 the industry established the Automotive Safety Foundation, which awarded grants for safety programs and advocated tax-funded driver education and examinations, law enforcement, suspension or revocation of drivers' licenses held by offenders, traffic engineering, traffic studies, and the construction of high-speed, limited-access highways.

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