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Whose Business Is Road Safety?

From a Fragmented to an Integrated Approach in France and Europe (1972–1998)

Alice Milor

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. Th is 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.