The long romance of Americans with motor vehicles is a sordid one. We’re addicted to our vehicles something fierce. Like all romances, tragedy comes into play. With cars and trucks the tragedy is the heartbreak of fatalities.
On this day in 1899, the very first American traffic fatality was inflicted. In New York City, realtor Henry Bliss left a streetcar and stepped into the path of an electric taxicab. The impact caused multiple injuries, including severe trauma to his head and chest. Bliss died from those injuries the next morning.
This unfortunate event is the first recorded incident of a car inflicting death on a person anywhere in the Americas. Strangely enough, there were two prior fatal car wrecks in the British Isles. Apparently, the very first was the death of Mary Ward who was involved in the crash of a steam driven car in 1869 in Ireland. In 1896 the first car vs. pedestrian death was recorded in Greater London. Bridget Driscoll was hit by an automobile at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, England.
These days, we hardly give car and truck fatalities much notice. Nearly every day we hear news reports about somebody or some family getting killed in a traffic wreck somewhere. We find it hard to personalize this news unless it has happened to someone in our own family.
Several years ago, one of my second cousins, and most of her family were killed in a horrendous collision involving their minivan in Lincoln, Nebraska. The emotional toll of that mishap still affects our family today. Like most crashes, this one happened in a split second.
I know we can get numbed by statistics, but the most effective way to keep track of traffic fatalities is to count them. Nebraska is one of the smallest states by population in the nation. But even here, we keep up with the national ratio of deaths per miles driven. That is about 1.1 deaths per 100,000,000 miles of vehicle travel. This figure reflects statistics of the first quarter of 2012.
In the sparcely populated state of Nebraska, our statistics are gathered by the Nebraska Department of Roads and the State Patrol Division. During July of this year, alone, there were 17 fatal crashes resulting in the deaths of 18 people. The agency says 12 of the deaths happened to occupants not using safety belts.
None of the deaths occurred on freeways. Eight deaths were those of people 24 years of age and younger. Eight were one-vehicle crashes in which the car or truck simply drove off the road. Two motorcyclists were killed. Two deaths were those of pedestrians. One person was killed as the result of a collision with a cow. Keep in mind, this was in a small state during only one month. Wherever you live, the statistics will be similar or worse, depending upon population and vehicle density.
Today, while we’re thinking about the demise of poor Mr. Bliss, back in 1899, we need to remember such a tragedy could easily claim our own lives without warning. Careful, defensive driving is the best preventative. Need I mention the importance of abstaining from booze, pot or other drugs?
The Blue Jay of Happiness asks you to please make sure everybody in your vehicle is buckled up before you drive.