Profile America — 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, and was run over by an almost silent electric taxi. The accident was the first fatality in the U.S. 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 1990, some 45,000 people were killed on the nation's highways. Since then, safety belts and better car designs have lowered the death toll. In recent years, the number has trended down to about 32,000 fatalities as of 2011, even though the number of cars continues to increase. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau, online at www.census.gov.
Profile America is produced by the Center for New Media and Promotions of the U.S. Census Bureau. These daily features are available as produced segments, ready to air, on the Internet at http://www.census.gov (look for "Multimedia Gallery" by the "Newsroom" button).