Jan. 2, 1966: When Airbags Were More Science Fiction Than Fact
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
On Jan. 2, 1966, The New York Times published a long article about American car companies’ response to the growing public concern about safety. At the time, cars had few safety devices — “shoulder harnesses will probably not be standard on 1967 models,” the article said. “The automakers are convinced that scarcely anyone wants them.”
Nevertheless, the reporter wrote, automakers were beginning to study new equipment. “One of the most exotic systems under discussion is an air-bag arrangement that would rapidly expand and hold passengers in place the instant a collision occurred.” It was the first mention in The Times of the automobile airbag.
Ten days later, the newspaper published an article titled “Scientist Designs ‘Safety Car’ to Cut Death Rate.” An illustration depicted a car with, among other innovations, front and side airbags, lap and shoulder belts, a collapsible steering wheel, an energy-absorbing frame and a “safety tail-light flashing system.”