From this Stackexchange question:
In the US, the NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was formed in 1966. Prior to this there really wasn't a regulatory agency in the US for such things - the world was a much more laissez faire place then. Innovations in safety came from the manufacturers, who noticed and wanted to do something about deaths rates. Volvo introduced the 3-point belt in 1958, but it wasn't until well into the 70s that cars came with them standard as part of the default belt. Mercedes pioneered crumple zones. US cars in the 60s often had safety belts as options, not even standard equipment. We had a 1973 Ford that had shoulder belts strapped up in the overhead over the windows and you had to take them down and connect them to use them. They were terrible. No give, so you couldn't even reach the radio.
Old cars were death traps. Anyone who gives their kid a 60s Mustang to drive is giving them a bomb. Gas tanks behind the rear seat, solid steering columns that extended past the front wheelbase, no side impact protection, etc.
It's really the same thing with head restraints and airbags. It took government regulations to make them happen, because people tend to just not care. There was a national outcry about the extra expense of airbags when they were introduced. A car without them would be unthinkable today. It wasn't until the 80s that wearing seat belts even became widespread. The popular opinion of the time was, "I want to be thrown free of the accident," a view since proven as wholly terrible.
Lately, the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has led the way for changes. Smaller side windows (protection against SUV side impacts) and larger A pillars (offset frontal crash protection) are the direct result of their tests and manufacturers wanting better rated vehicles.
Huh? "I want to be thrown free of the accident"? I've read this 50+ times now and it just doesn't read as English to me. What could he possibly be referring to?
What does it mean to "be thrown free of" an accident?