Profile America: First Auto Fatality

Friday, September 13th. When Henry Bliss stepped off a streetcar at Central Park West and 74th Street in New York, on this date in 1899, automobiles were a novelty. Thus, he didn’t look carefully, and was run over by an almost silent electric taxi. The accident was the first fatality in the nation involving an automobile.

At the time, there were fewer than 8,000 motor vehicles in the whole country. As the number of registered automobiles climbed rapidly, so did the number of deaths. In 1999 — one century later — nearly 42,000 drivers, passengers and pedestrians were killed on the nation’s roads.

In recent years, the number has trended down to just over 37,000 fatalities in 2017, even though the number of cars and national vehicle miles continue to increase.

Profile America is in its 23rd year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online.