LBJ made safety click

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Nicole Nugent Covert

By Guest Columnist Nicole Nugent Covert—

In 1966, the United States knew more about sending a man into space than it did about protecting families as they traveled in automobiles on our nation’s highways.

That was the year my grandfather, President Lyndon B. Johnson, signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This landmark legislation required manufacturers to install seat belts in all new vehicles starting in 1968.

Up to that point, vehicle and highway safety features many Americans now take for granted — such as air bags and highway guardrails — were not generally available. In the mid-1960s, it was commonplace for 50,000 people to be killed each year on the nation’s highways.

In 1965, my mother, Luci Baines Johnson, turned 18. For her birthday, my grandfather gave her a 1965 Corvette Stingray with removable hardtop. My mother adored that car, but two years later, my grandfather quietly swapped it out with a large, safe sedan. By that point, my mother was pregnant with my brother and my grandfather had no intention of taking any chances with his daughter or his first grandchild.

As a mother of two high school students, I now think about traffic safety from a whole new perspective. At least I can rest a little easier because of the steps taken by their great-grandfather to make seat belts standard in all vehicles.

Thanks to vehicle safety and engineering improvements initiated almost 50 years ago...

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