rollover: the hidden history of the suv
In the 10-year period during which Ford SUVs outfitted with Firestone tires caused some 300 deaths in rollover accidents, more than 12,000 people died in SUV rollovers unrelated to tire failure. What did automakers and the federal government know about the risks posed by SUVs -- and what were they doing to protect consumers? Here's an overview of the SUV's hidden history, along with excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with former regulators and other auto-safety experts.
unsafe on any tire?
before you buy...
nixon & detroit
unsafe on any tire?

Chronology: A Regulatory Free Ride?
An overview of the political and regulatory history of the SUV from the mid-1960s -- when auto safety first appeared on the national agenda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was created -- to the present, including an update on recent and pending decisions on the design of the Ford Explorer.

Perception vs. Reality: SUVs and Safety
People in SUVs may feel safer, but does the public really understand the risks that SUVs pose to their own drivers and passengers, not to mention others on the road? What are the safety issues raised by SUVs, and what role has their marketing played in creating the public's perception? Here are excerpts from interviews with Keith Bradsher of The New York Times, Ford marketing consultant Martin Goldfarb, former NHTSA administrators Joan Claybrook and Jerry Curry, auto-safety analyst Brian O'Neill, and plaintiff attorney Tab Turner.

Contact Sport: The Politics of Auto Safety
Ever since Ralph Nader's consumer-advocacy campaigns of the 1960s, auto safety has been among the most controversial issues in American politics, with hardball tactics and accusations of deception and opportunism on all sides. At the center of the debate, though, is a deep ideological divide between the advocates of government regulation and private litigation to protect consumers and the proponents of free-market ideals and deregulation of industry. Here, in excerpts from their interviews with FRONTLINE, are the perspectives of Joan Claybrook, NHTSA administrator from 1977 to 1981; Jerry Curry, NHTSA administrator from 1989 to 1992; Tab Turner, a prominent plaintiff attorney; Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety; and Keith Bradsher, former Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times.

home · introduction · unsafe on any tire? · before you buy... · interviews · nixon & detroit
discussion · links & readings · video excerpt
producer's chat · tapes & transcripts · press reaction · credits · privacy policy

FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbs online

photo copyright © richard hamilton smith/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation