July 16, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

Moving Violations

Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States

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.

About the Author

Lee Vinsel is an assistant professor of science, technology, and society at Virginia Tech.


"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, Georgia Institute of Technology, author of Regulating Railroad Innovation: Business, Technology, and Politics in America, 1840–1920

"So much more than a history of automobile standards, Moving Violations puts regulation and technology at the heart of political economy. Vinsel shows how a century of contests between activists, experts, and officials—not merely private innovation—shaped and reshaped both the modern car and modern capitalism."

- Benjamin Waterhouse, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, author of The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States

"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, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, coauthor of Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880

"Government regulation works most effectively by focusing the attention of experts on problems that represent the public good. In his insightful account of auto industry regulation as the interplay of public and private interests, Vinsel maintains that the public good would have been poorly served if the 'market' had represented only driver preferences and commercial interests."

- Margaret B. W. Graham, McGill University, coauthor of Corning and the Craft of Innovation


"Moving Violations is a superb history of automobile regulation in the United States from 1893 to the present, a case study of the relationship between regulation and technological change... Moving Violations will benefit all those with an interest in transportation history, regulatory history, technological history, innovation, and public policy and many others who will find something to savor in the details."

- Louis Cain, Northwestern University - EH.Net

9781421429656 : moving-violations-vinsel
424 Pages
$64.95 USD

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