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He was the first of many.

It was 1899 and Henry Hale Bliss, a 68-year-old businessman active in New York real estate, was coming home to his house at 234 West 71st Street.

He had taken a streetcar and was getting off at W. 74th and Central Park West when his day turned less than blissful.

An electric powered taxi struck Bliss, causing severe injuries to his head and chest.

Bliss died he next day.

As we said he was the first of many. The first person to die in a motor vehicle crash in the U.S. — 122 years ago today. There have been more than 3.5 million others over the years.

The taxi driver, one Arthur Smith, was charged with manslaughter. But a jury found that he had not been negligent and he had no intention of killing Bliss, so he was acquitted.

The number of traffic fatalities would grow steadily over the years, reaching a peak in the early 1970s with more than 50,000 deaths per year. Since then there has been a slow decline, but as of 2020 we still lose more than 36,000 a year to fatal crashes.

That's too many.

Traffic safety is something we should all be concerned with. Thousands and thousands of lives could be spared each year if people would just put safety above drinking and driving, using a cell phone, changing the music or rushing to beat a stoplight.

Pay attention. Slow down. Obey traffic laws. It's not difficult. It's just common sense.

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