Most research into road safety in Europe has focused chiefly on public action, without closely examining the role of car manufacturers or their coordination with public initiatives. This article explores how manufacturers transitioned from a fragmented conception of road safety in the 1970s—with vehicles being the responsibility of manufacturers, and prevention and roads that of institutions—to an increasingly integrated approach in the twenty-first century. The study uses industry archives to present manufacturer strategies from 1972 onward, which at first exclusively focused on vehicle safety standards. After 1986, the European Year of Road Safety, manufacturers’ official discourse increasingly stressed user education, as opposed to technical improvements to the product. This article will use the French case, as well as a more European approach to the automobile lobby in Brussels, to chart the gradual emergence of an integrated approach to safety combining the vehicle, infrastructure, and user behavior.
Alice Milor is a PhD fellow at Sorbonne Université attached to the SIRICE laboratory, and a member of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility. A former student of the École Normale Supérieure, she holds an agrégation in history and a degree in business management from Sciences Po. Her dissertation focused on the European automobile industry facing the challenge of globalization since the 1970s. Her latest article, “Les sous-traitants automobiles français face à la crise: une réponse libérale? 1981–1986” (French automotive suppliers facing crisis: A liberal response? 1981–1986), which was published in Histoire, Économie et Société in 2019, revisits the revival of economic liberalism in Europe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org