European style mapping, as you call it, also has something to do with registration in the printing process. Getting a 0.3 mm grey street outline registered on an 95 x 70 cm sheet is quite a challenge sometimes, even in offset.
So my guess would go into that direction: North-Americans were lacking the technical possibilities at some point in time, or were just trying to simplify things. A 100 % magenta road line (or for that reason a Pantone coloured one) is easier to get registered in print than a combined yellow/magenta inner line with a 50 % black outline. Possibly that also has something to do with the different techniques Europeans and Americans use (or used) in reproduction: Europeans have/had positive films for transferring the information to printing plates, North American negatives. Nowadays with the direct-to-plate techniques the differences have gone.
I personally have developed a combination from European and American style (see example below) with the rule of thumb: the larger the scale the more "European" the road styles.
American vs European style street maps
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