The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 was a revolutionary statute. Indeed, it represented the convergence of two revolutionary movements. The first was the political movement for reform of federal administrative regulation. Abandoning the New Deal model of a reactive regulatory commission charged with adjudicating, on a case-by-case basis, the reasonableness of the activities of particular firms, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act created a "pro-active" bureau charged with the responsibility for promulgating new general rules of conduct that would operate industry-wide. The second revolutionary movement was intellectual and reshaped the substance of automobile safety regulation. Abandoning the historic definition of the automobile safety problem as one of avoiding accidents by modifying driver behavior, the 1966 Act adopted an epidemiological perspective. Reconstituted, the safety issue became how to modify the vehicle (environment) so that the interaction of the passenger (host) and the deceleration forces of accidents (agent) produced less trauma.
Jerry L. Mashaw & David L. Harfst,
Regulation and Legal Culture: The Case of Motor Vehicle Safety,
Yale J. on Reg.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjreg/vol4/iss2/3