After World War I, automobile ownership became a mass phenomenon in Belgium, as in most other industrialized countries. Unfortunately, road-casualty figures soon followed. By the mid-1930s, traffic accidents had become the main cause of accidental deaths. There was clearly a need for a renewed road-safety policy. Public authorities in Belgium, however, were suspiciously reluctant to take new measures. While there was a public outcry for more severe regulation of motorized traffic and several MPs backed bills to this effect, motoring associations lobbied against traffic legislation reforms. In order to understand the Belgian government’s hesitation, this article looks at the key strategies of the actors involved in the decision-making process concerning traffic policy. Such strategies included, among others: the creation of detailed traffic-accident statistics, revision of traffic legislation, and support for mass traffic-education campaigns. Eventually, public officials stepped in and created a new technocratic traffic regime in the 1930s, yet their prime concern was not road-user safety, but the efficiency of traffic streams.


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pp. 394-419
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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