Thursday, July 16, 2015

Delegating to the Automobile

56:2 (April 2015) of the journal Technology and Culture is a special issue, "(Auto)Mobility, Accidents, and Danger."  Of special interest for legal historians is Delegating to the Automobile: Experimenting with Automotive Restraints in the 1970s (pp. 440-463) by Jameson M. Wetmore, which is a view, from later in the twentieth century, of an analogous issue to the one Sally H. Clarke addressed in Unmanageable Risks: MacPherson v. Buick and the Emergence of a Mass Consumer Market, Law and History Review 23 (2005): 1-52.  Here’s the abstract to Wetmore’s (gated) article:
This article explores the attempts in the United States in the 1970s to implement a new paradigm for automobile safety—crashworthiness, the idea that automobile passengers should be protected in the event of a crash. A large number of strategies were proposed, including air bags, seatbelt modifications, mandatory belt-use laws, and ignition interlocks. Many of these did not initially come to fruition, but they did give the automobile safety community a chance to experiment with different ways of distributing responsibilities between automobile occupants, automobile manufacturers, and, to a lesser extent, government agencies. These experiments helped pave the way for the successful implementation of a number of new strategies in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
The TOC for the entire issue is here.