The Country’s First Fatal Car Accident Happened in NYC, 114 Years and Nine Days Ago

September 23, 2013 | Andy Cush

In the five weeks since the British tourist Sian Green was maimed by a taxi in Midtown, there have been at least nine pedestrians killed by automobiles in the five boroughs and thirteen other accidents involving pedestrian injuries. It seems like an extreme number, and it is, but for NYC it’s business as usual: cars have been killing pedestrians here for as long as there have been cars.

Take this example, from September 14, 1899–just two years after the first cabs came to New York–in which a taxi killed real estate agent Henry H. Bliss as he exited a trolley, making him the first fatal victim of an automobile accident in the United States. The New York Times report of the incident is brief but rich with detail: cabs were electric back then, the passenger in the cab was Dr. David Orr Edson, son of former NYC mayor Franklin Edson, and the stretch of Central Park West where it happened was so crash-prone that trolley operators referred to it by the somewhat uncreative title “Dangerous Stretch.” The country’s first speeding ticket was issued to a cabbie in the city earlier that year.

How dangerous is Dangerous Stretch now? Not so bad, according to NYC Crashmapper, which shows Central Park West as a place (relatively) safe from automobile carnage these days. Perhaps we have the Eight Avenue trolley becoming the A/C/E train and M10 bus to thank for that.

Still, cars remain a serious threat to NYC denizens, injuring 15,465 pedestrians and killing 155 in 2012 alone. How about bikes, those terrorist-aiding, incredibly dangerous vehicles perpetually on the verge of destroying the city’s transportation infrastructure? They haven’t killed a pedestrian since 2009.