Thesis ID: CBB001562312

Systems of Restraint: Redistributing Responsibilities for Automobile Safety in the United States since the 1960s (2003)


Wetmore, Jameson Michael (Author)

Cornell University
Kline, Ronald

Publication Date: 2003
Edition Details: Advisor: Kline, Ronald
Physical Details: 299 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation explores the ways in which the integration of new automotive restraint technologies into society has been intimately linked to the creation, distribution, and redistribution of responsibilities. It traces the history of automotive restraint from the 1960s to the year 2000 by examining the variety of strategies that were developed, proposed, and deployed to ensure that American motorists were properly secured inside their vehicle in the event of a collision. These strategies did not simply address devices like seat belts and air bags, but rather outlined a broad system of restraint that included these technologies as well as the automobile manufacturers that built them, the government agency that regulated their design, the motorists that were supposed to use them, the organizations that educated these motorists on how to use them, and many other systems, organizations, and technologies. To link all of these components, the strategies also outlined how the elements should interact by allocating a set of responsibilities, or duties, to each of them. These duties, when carried out as conceived, connected the components and enabled them to work together for a common goal. This dissertation argues that the question of how responsibilities should be distributed, or redistributed, to these components in order to promote automotive restraint was a key topic of debate among those interested in automobile safety. Strategies have been denounced for a variety of reasons, including the belief that a particular component was not able to carry out the responsibilities allocated to it under the strategy or because a particular group sought to avoid the moral and liability issues that could accompany its acceptance of a particular responsibility. Compelling all of the actors involved to carry out the tasks allocated to them under a particular strategy has been of vital importance to ensure stability in the resulting socio-technical system and in order to attain the goals of the system builders. Only once an agreement over the redistribution of responsibilities was reached could the individuals, organizations, devices, and government agencies that comprised the restraint system form a coherent whole and be integrated into American society.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 64 (2003): 1384. UMI order no. 3086990.

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Authors & Contributors
Leonardi, Paul M.
Liang, Yong-yu
Zhang, Daqing
Norton, Peter D.
Packer, Jeremy
Volti, Rudi
Technology and Culture
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Technikgeschichte: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Technik und Industrie
Zhongguo Keji Shiliao (China Historical Materials of Science and Technology)
Social Studies of Science
Business and Economic History On-Line
Duke University Press
MIT Press
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Princeton University
Automobile safety
Land transportation
Technology and society
Miles, Walter Richard
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
21st century
United States
Shanghai (China)
European Union
National Research Council (U.S.)
U.S., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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