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Have Cars Always Been a Danger to Pedestrians?

Updated: Sep 29, 2017

In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in confrontations with motor vehicles in the United States. That averages out to 15 deaths every day of that year, according to NHTSA traffic safety data. Those numbers continue to remain high, along with reports of distracted driving -- and walking. Unfortunately, pedestrians have been getting hurt by automobiles for almost as long as cars have been on the streets. The first American to die after being hit by an automobile was Henry Bliss, who was struck by an electric-powered taxi after getting off a New York City streetcar in 1899. He was helping a companion step off the streetcar at the time.

Mean streets for pedestrians:

  • Arthur Smith, who was driving for the Electric Vehicle Co., was charged with manslaughter in the accident, but ultimately the death was ruled unintentional, and charges were dropped.
  • A plaque at West 74th Street and Central Park West, installed there in 1999, now commemorates the city's first pedestrian fatality.
  • The CDC reports that one pedestrian was killed in a vehicle crash approximately every 1.6 hours in 2015.
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