Fun seekers of the 1890s looked to the horseless carriage for new thrills. But 100 years ago this week, at least one driver found that the automobile can also be a hazard.
On May 30, 1896, motorist Henry Wells hit bicyclist Evylyn Thomas on a New York City street. It was Americas first auto accident. Thomass injury: a broken leg; car that Wells was driving: a Duryea motor wagon; Wells penalty: a night in jail;
The first automobile fatality: Henry H. Bliss (Sept. 13, 1899); how he died: a car hit him after he stepped off a New York streetcar.
Auto accidents: in 1937: 7 million; in 1970: 16 million; in 1994: 6.5 million; auto accident deaths in 1937: 39,643; in 1970: 54,633; in 1994: 40,676.
First speeding arrest: New York cabdriver Jacob German (May 20, 1899); his speed: 12 mph; state that enacted the first speed limit: Connecticut (May 21, 1901); the law: 15 mph on country highways, 12 mph within city limits.
Early safety feature: a “pedestrian catcher” mounted on the front of the car; year the first seat belt was developed: 1908; year the government required new cars to have front-seat lap-shoulder belts: 1968; first company to sell cars with air bags: General Motors (1974).