Friday, May 1, 2020

Vinsel, "Moving Violations"

We missed this book when it came out last summer (thanks to New Books in Law for alerting us to it now): Lee Vinsel, Moving Violations: Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019). Here's description from the Press:
Regulation has shaped the evolution of the automobile from the beginning. In Moving Violations, Lee Vinsel shows that, contrary to popular opinion, these restrictions have not hindered technological change. Rather, by drawing together communities of scientific and technical experts, auto regulations have actually fostered innovation.
Vinsel tracks the history of American auto regulation from the era of horseless carriages and the first, faltering efforts to establish speed limits in cities to recent experiments with self-driving cars. He examines how the government has tried to address car-related problems, from accidents to air pollution, and demonstrates that automotive safety, emissions, and fuel economy have all improved massively over time. Touching on fuel economy standards, the rise of traffic laws, the birth of drivers' education classes, and the science of distraction, he also describes how the government's changing activities have reshaped the automobile and its drivers, as well as the country's entire system of roadways and supporting technologies, including traffic lights and gas pumps.
Moving Violations examines how policymakers, elected officials, consumer advocates, environmentalists, and other interested parties wrestled to control the negative aspects of American car culture while attempting to preserve what they saw as its positive contributions to society. Written in a clear, approachable, and jargon-free voice, Moving Violations will appeal to makers and analysts of policy, historians of science, technology, business, and the environment, and any readers interested in the history of cars and government.
A few blurbs:
"A truly excellent book: well written, deeply researched, exceptionally wide-ranging, and compelling in both its large interpretations and its detailed assessments. Moving Violations will stand as a pioneering and authoritative treatment of government regulation across the long twentieth century." — Steven W. Usselman

"From traffic lights to emission controls, airbags, and autonomous vehicles, Vinsel studies how varying types of automobile regulation, broadly construed, affected technological innovation. Ultimately, he shows that well-crafted regulations can serve the public good and encourage technological creativity. This engaging book is highly recommended for historians, scholars of innovation, and policymakers." — JoAnne Yates
More information is available here. An interview with Professor Vinsel (Virginia Tech) about the book is available here.

-- Karen Tani