There is a tidy -- and purely coincidental -- historical tie in this week's issue of Automotive News.
On Page 3, a nod to Ralph Nader, whose trailblazing work on automotive safety was marked 50 years ago today with the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed.
And on Page 17, our selection of Mark Rosekind -- head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency whose creation was sparked by Nader -- as Industry Leader of the Year. This is not a common pick for us. For three decades, the distinction has been owned by company executives with names like Ghosn and Mulally and Iacocca.
How did a bureaucrat stand so tall in his first year on the job? As our story says: "Rosekind set his sights higher, leading the industry to live up to its safety-first sales pitch. At a time when major auto defect crises so often overshadow automakers' achievements, he's saving the industry from itself."
That's enough of an achievement. But as this issue took shape last week, Rosekind committed himself to an even taller task: saving Americans from themselves.
He revealed that the U.S. highway death toll had dropped again in 2014, to 32,675. That's 1.07 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, a record low.
Beyond the headline-grabbing crises of Takata airbags and General Motors ignition switches, here stood more proof that this industry has made phenomenal strides in keeping vehicle occupants safe.
So much for the good news.
This year, U.S. traffic deaths rose 8 percent through June, preliminary figures show. And a big reason, Rosekind suspects, is distracted driving.
"The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there's no question that has to play some role," he said. "But we don't have enough information yet to determine how big a role."
My hunch is that it's a very big one. And the only research you need is your own eyes as you witness how many fellow drivers steer with one hand on the wheel and the other on their ear. The texters are even worse.
NHTSA will hold meetings around the country early next year to gather ideas for combating distracted driving and other risky behavior. Then safety experts will meet in Washington to come up with an action plan, Rosekind said.
May he be as successful in this next challenge as he has been in his first remarkable year in reining in wayward automakers.
We can all help by taking a good look in our mirrors.
As Nader himself would say of drivers and cellphones: They're unsafe at any speed.