Safety First

 Posted by on April 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm  Retro, Season 5
Apr 102012

A really neat moment from A Little Kiss occurs in Don’s car as drops the children off with Betty and Henry. Bringing his vehicle to a stop, he reaches out an arm to keep the kids (ALL THREE crammed in the front seat) from flying into the dashboard. If you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s like me, you probably remember your parents doing this all the time even though it wouldn’t be effective in a really serious accident, thankfully now One Sure Insurance exists and when it comes to accidents families are able to get full coverage.

This nostalgic moment also dovetails (intentionally, I think) with another quick piece of dialog delivered later at SDCP.  Discussing accounts, Roger references Chrysler trying to deal with Ralph Nader.  The historical context of the comment was the fact that after the release of Nader’s watershed book, Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), the federal government was contemplating a number of new safety rules for cars such as a mandate that automakers include seat belts in all their products.

In 1966, Chrysler’s VP of Product Planning and Development, Harry Chesebrough, reacted to talk about the proposed new standards by going on a nationwide tour contesting the necessity of devices such as seat belts.


  24 Responses to “Safety First”

  1. I’m not sure I ever wore a seat belt before my teens, and I almost always rode upfront, usually sandwiched in between my mother and grandmother. When I was in the backseat, I often hung out the window, like a Golden Retriever. Someone would half-heartedly tell me to come back in.

  2. Great catch, Matt!

    Roger does ask if there’s “a way around” Nader. Pete says, “There isn’t.”

    That was one of my I-love-Pete moments in the season opener. The comment reminded me that Pete is now the father of an infant, and perhaps the guy holding the rule book for SCDP. Who’d have expected that, a few seasons ago?

    And yes, I remember my dad making the Don move in the photo above. Later, my dates used the same maneuver when I’d ride around with them in their big old cars. Of course, they probably had a different motive in mind …


    • ” Later, my dates used the same maneuver” – Hmmm, that’s a good move. šŸ™‚

    • When I was 5 my parents had a Mercury Comet stationwagon — we were rounding a corner, the back door opened, and I almost flew out of the car!

      • My four-year-old grabbed onto the door handle in the 1970s as I was rounding a corner and also almost fell out of the car. Fortunately it was on a rural road and no harm done.

        I also had an auto accident with my two-year-old standing in the front seat (spring 1963) and despite my outflung arm, she fell into the dashboard and still has a very light scar at her hairline.

        So yes, seatbelts are a wonderful invention and I never for one minute felt that our liberties were infringed when they became mandatory.

      • When I was a freshman in high school I’d ride home from school in one of those things, a car pool, driven by a sophomore friend.

        Last ones to get to the car (usually me) would have to sit in the back. Marian (the driver) would turn a corner and we’d all slide and slam into the opposite wall, books and backpacks piling into us. Turn another corner, repeat.

        Sigh. Good times. šŸ™‚

  3. You know the funny thing is that my Mom use to do that and I STILL DO. I grew up wearing seatbelts for the bulk of my life and certainly all my driving life but I still stick the hand out there when I stop short. An no, there’s no ulterior motive. I also do it to stop my purse from flying.

    I’m an aerospace engineer, I understand physics. And I still stick out that damn hand like it’s going to help.

    • I’m only 23 and always wore a seat belt but I do it too! One time I stopped short and I instinctively pushed my friend back into his seat. He said it was really cute.

  4. I grew up in the 1990s and my mom would still do that if she had to break suddenly and even when I was wearing a seat belt, she would always put her arm across.

    • I grew up in the era after seatbelts were standard issue and worn without question. Even with a seatbelt, if the car stopped short, my mom would put her arm across too.

  5. I started wearing a seat belt around 1965 or 1966 because my brother was taking driver’s ed and got us to wear them.

  6. My mom still does this. Whenever she stops short she sticks her hand out like that, in fact she just did itwith me the other day and I’m almost 30. She’s about Sally’s age so I’m thinking she grew up with her parents doing that and it became a habit for her as well.

    • Exactly right, Jeanne! I’m just four years older than Sally, and my kids are now 28 and 30. They were in car seats or wore seatbelts ball of their lives, but I always threw my arm out in sudden stops. I’ve always known that I had learned it from my mom. It was so much fun to see Don do it!

  7. I may be off, but I seem to recall Season I Betty in the car w/ the kids and her stopping suddenly (with her hand paralysis) and the kids flying around in the backseat. I sure remember those days. My parents were early adopters for seatbelts in the early ’60’s (they made a special appointment to get them installed in the car), but I sure remember lots of flying around in most cars I rose in as a kid those days.

    There’s a funny bit in a Seinfeld episode that deals with the “protective arm” issue involving George Costanza’s parents. Same move.

    • bestbets, see the author (Matt Maul)’s response to my comment up at #2, for the link to this scene from Seinfeld.

      “He stopped short!”

      • My bad — I skimmed too quick. I should have know this crew would have picked that up right away!

  8. Yet, most of us survived 60’s and 70’s parenting. Rest assured, our kids will have similar reserves about our modern age parenting.
    Having said that, my kids travel only in approved car seats, buckled up.
    They were doing their best back then, just like we’re doing our best now and won’t it be interesting to find out in a couple of decades the horrible safety hazards we blissfully ignore now.

  9. It’s interesting to compare safety rules, then and now. I think there’s basically much more safety regulation now – speeding limits, seat belts, warning signs, devices in cars, devices monitoring traffic and speeding limits, etc. Compared to this, the 60s was the Wild West of automobile driving. Cars also seemed longer, in general, more distance to cover looking out the back, where now a large and long car is a choice among many sizes. The VW bug was such an anomaly and every college kid wanted one – it was not-your-father’s-car, a generational marker.

    I chuckled when I saw Don stick out his arm to ‘protect’ the kids, a memory of my own experience driving with the parents, and I wonder how we all survived. I also remember the freedom of not having to wear a seat belt, especially as the size and weight of the seat belt buckle, when sea tbelts first came onto the market with cars, were so clunky and huge.

  10. We’re all buckled in, but I still do the arm-block motion when either of my kids are up front! Maternal Instinct,
    Anyone remember the Ad Council ‘eggs-in-a-box’ commercial, where the eggs are first loose and then taped into a box to show how safely belts kept you from ‘cracking up’. (pardon the bad pun!)

  11. My Mom did the protective arm for me in the 70’s and 80’s even though I always wore a seatbelt and it made me feel very loved. I sort of felt a little sad when she stopped doing it šŸ™‚

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