this man is the most deadly menace to life and safety that our country has ever known every day his hurtling car kills or maims more than 3,000 people on the streets and highways of America his mad driving leads to accidents like this and this no war no pestilence no crime wave has taken such a relentless toll in lives and human misery as this murderous fiend behind the wheel yet his activities are now so much a part of our daily lives they are accepted as a matter of course when the moral castle burned off the coast of New Jersey it made front-page headlines in papers from coast to coast 134 died in burning liners though automobiles take three times as many lives every month these auto accidents are seldom news except to the loved ones of the victim when this hurricane swept across Florida leaving a trail of destruction estimated at 3 million dollars it was the cause of national dismay every newspaper every news reel every radio station devoted ample space and time to reporting its details but few people get excited about the economic loss from motor vehicle accidents although in the small state of New Jersey this loss was 30 million dollars last year the floods of 1936 will go down in history because of the great loss of life and destruction of property a toll of 169 killed and half a billion in property damage yet even today the toll of last year's automobile accidents is almost forgotten all the more than 200 times as many people were killed by Auto what can we do about the appalling loss in life and property that this mad driver is causing year after year to get an answer to the question I went to see governor Hoffman and Commissioner McGee because of their keen interest in the problem and their long experience in traffic control I ask man governor who is this fiend and how can he be tracked down and taken from behind the wheel and what does he look like well I'll answer your last question first this fiend that you've been talking about so glibly law looks a lot like you sometimes and other times he may look like Commissioner McGee and still at other times he may look like me in other words there is no one fiend or group of madmen to whom we can point and say these people cause a majority of the accident the vast majority of accidents are caused by the so called average driver and pedestrian and a single moment of carelessness and in that single moment the average driver becomes a murderous maniac but couldn't this carelessness be overcome in part by added safety features in cars and by foolproof roads no in the last five years have been more and better safety features developed for cars than in the previous 20 years yet the accident rate has been higher than ever before as to roads although good roads can partially compensate for the human element there is no such thing as a completely foolproof Road New Jersey has the best roads in the country wide highways of concrete many of them divided traffic engineering has developed the traffic circle and cloverleaf for busy intersections features that prevent intersection traffic from meeting at right angles at route junctions where traffic is unusually heavy roads have been specially constructed to take traffic through the junction with a minimum of danger construction that employs wide highways for one-way traffic all these things are designed to curtail accidents and they help but look what has happened on our fine highways each pin on this map marks the approximate location of a fatal traffic accident the 20 415 pins now in it are the toll of the past two years well if this terrific accident rate can't be blamed on cars or roads or on a select few careless drivers how can it be cut down by making every citizen conscious of what he or she must do to avoid accidents I like to think of motoring as a sport and it is one of our most popular forms of recreation this sport has its rules some of them are printed in the Motor Vehicle Act others are unprinted based upon common sense and common decency of the motorists who doesn't obey them dr. Miller McClintock director of the bureau for street traffic research at Harvard University said if a fellow enjoys cheating at solitaire he will probably enjoy jumping traffic signals when no one is looking driving faster than the law permits or parking where he isn't supposed to park to curb such unsportsmanlike players the motoring game there are two umpires the traffic officer and the ambulance driver the smart cheat may get by for a time with both but sooner or later he's certain to be ruled out by one or the other as in any other sport the player who observes the rules gets the most out of the game in every other sport the player who doesn't abide by the rules is ostracized the man who kicks a golf ball it's a man with whom none of us like to play or even to know yet many of us who wouldn't think of cheating on the fairway cheat regularly on the highway although the result of our cheatin may be the loss of a life instead of a game in racing the jockey who wins by crowding another horse to the rail is not very popular with a crowd yet put him in a drivers seat instead of a saddle let him commit the same foul on the open road and it will call almost unnoticed in football the dirty player doesn't remain long on the team because the American public won't stand for poor sportsmanship each of us would take the same attitude toward dirty driving that we do toward dirty tackling this same public opinion would soon take much of the discourtesy carelessness off the road most people who ignore the rules of the driving game don't even realize that they're spoiling the game for everyone themselves included as a matter of fact they don't realize that they're breaking a rule most of us have one or more bad habits and driving of which we're not even conscious if every person who holds a driver's license would check his habits against the rules of the game weed out the bad ones and replace them with good ones our accident problem will be almost entirely solved just what are these bad habits that cause so many accidents suppose you go out and see for yourself lo we asked mr. BAE to come in please I'm going to have our traffic engineer take you out for a ride and show you some of the examples of good and bad driving along our highway but the Thomas this must obey our traffic engineer I do Arnold I've told mr. Thomas that you'll take him out for a ride and join some examples of good and bad driving on our road I'll be glad to and before you go you might show him some of the accident reports let him look over some of the causes of the accidents investigated by our motor vehicle inspector yes sir the reports that mr. BAE showed me analyzed serious accidents from all over the state although each accident seemed to be different analysis showed that practically all were caused by bad driving habits for instance one card red car going north on route 30 pass truck on curve collided head-on with car going south on same road another report red collision at intersection of Route 28 with rural road car going west on rural road failed to grant write of Hawaii and another car parked facing north on Smith Street Trenton driver did not give hand signal nor exercise you caution when pulling away from curb struck by car going in same direction after examining these records we went out on the road and mr. Bay pointed out to me examples of bad driving habits that caused over 80% of automobile accidents apparently most drivers don't realize how dangerous many of these habits are until after the accident one of the first bad habits that we saw was passing on the shoulder of the road the shoulder is for emergencies not for passing this habit leads to many accidents then opposed to cars that were driving on the shoulder when they should have been on the pavement we saw cars parked on the pavement instead of on the shoulder these fellows will have something more serious than tire trouble if they don't move over driving too close to the car in front particularly in heavy traffic that's one of the most dangerous habits but an even worse cause of serious accident is the habit of cutting in and out through moving traffic endangering the occupants of car after car as the offender weaves from lime to live with this fault is often combined that of driving too fast for conditions a habit which by itself figures in many of the most serious accidents until I took this trip I couldn't understand how a head-on collision was possible on a divided highway but I learned that there were actually people who drive on the wrong side of the division another potential accident causes that we met was the fellow who stops out in the middle of the road to read a road sign if you don't know where you want to go it's only common courtesy to get out of the way until you find out leave the road open for those who know where they're going of the many pedestrians that we saw on the highway far more than half we're walking with their backs to traffic a dangerous habit day or night most drivers seem to be reasonably careful about passing on a curve most but not all because the danger of being out on the wrong side of the road of invasion is block is so obvious this is an inexcusable habit the same is true of passing at or near the crest of a hill yet we met several drivers willing to risk their own and other lives in this foolhardy manner even on a straight road careless sloppy passing is an accident breeder particularly in urban areas and no matter how wide the road there are some drivers who seem to think that they must do their passing on the extreme left hand side it's surprising how many drivers don't bother to get into the proper lane before turning we saw right turns from left and left turns from right lanes with and without hand signals and speaking of hand signals we saw a wide variety of novel and interesting ones most of them meaningless in addition to those drivers who put out their hand for some purpose other than signal II and those who made signals that were impossible to interpret there were many whose signals were definitely misleading who signaled for a right turn and made a left or vice versa of course there are only three proper signals one means stop another means I'm going to turn right still another means I'm going to turn left we saw many near accidents at intersections caused by a few seemingly prevalent bad habits the fellow who forms a third line at a traffic signal is a particular pest although not quite as dangerous perhaps as the driver who comes flying through an unsecured lized intersection without caring who has the right-of-way add to these two the habit of trying to beat the light squeeze through on the amber and you have the three great causes of intersection accidents in the city we saw such bad habits as getting out on the wrong side of a parked car and pulling away from the curb without signaling or exercising due caution urban pedestrian accidents are a big factor many of them caused by the failure of drivers to give pedestrians the right of way but pedestrians to have bad traffic habits walking in front of a trolley or bus for instance and of course there is the ever-present children's habit of playing in the street a habit that drivers can start to correct in their own homes with their own children to get further examples of pedestrian habits we pause at the intersection of broad and Market Streets in Europe at this busy intersection the police have found it necessary to station a traffic officer at each corner solely to control pedestrian traffic moving from one side of the corner to the other as the light changes he keeps pedestrians on the curb until traffic stops and permits a safe crossing to find out what would happen if these officers were not on duty we arrange to have them remove for a few min although each corner bore assign advising pedestrians to wait for the red light the majority of them paid no attention to either the signs or the lights they crossed against the light they crossed in the middle of the block they strolled across as though they were on a country lane they even walked down the middle of the street and this at one of the busiest intersections in the whole world in York we saw many many instances of double parking one of which almost caused an accident involving a firetruck during our trip we questioned drivers whose driving was particularly reckless and some told us that they got a thrill out of taking chances personal danger may be thrilling to some people how else can we account for the fellows who fly upside down and spin Disney around the track but while a man may have the right to risk his own life in stunts like these he has no right to risk the lives of others the place for such antics is in public exhibitions where millions of people pay money to watch Daredevils risk their necks not on the highway the man who risks his own neck in reckless stunts may be a fool or he may be a hero but the gangster who gets a thrill out of shooting down innocent bystanders is just a murderer and the man who seeks his thrills on the highway is in the same class the thrill driver the deliberately reckless driver causes accidents yes what they are few in number and can be stamped out but we can't stamp out the average driver who drew occasional carelessness discourtesy and bad driving habits causes the vast majority of accidents the murderous fiend of the highway is your carelessness only you can conquer him a little effort will correct your bad habits and once corrected good driving will be an effortless habit surely surely that's a small price to pay as your share in laying low the beast that murdered 36 thousand men women and children on America's highways last year


  1. New Jersey has the best roads in the Country? this is how you know it is dated as their roads now are akin to Bagdad or Aleppo

  2. Lowell Thomas was probably the best known voice on radio- and in newsreels- in 1937; his daily news and commentary program was on NBC, and his narrations of Fox's "Movietone News" were a highlight of whatever they produced. In addition, he was available for appearances in any public service or industrial film.

  3. At–15:00— Study the picture a moment …See pics of people or whatever they are? Cool shot.

  4. No turn signals? In the winter I guess you had to quick roll down the window, stick your hand out, struggle with the manual steering wheel while shifting gears.

  5. I own a copy of this film. It belonged to my grandfather, along with other 16mm films. I remember watching as a kid. I enjoyed the old cars and steam locomotives.

  6. Reminds me of the films we had to watch in drivers ED back in the 70's , "Death on The Highway" and" Mechanized Death" , usually just before lunch . This film would still be relevant today if the problem hadn't become so much worse . As usual , another wonderful clip brought back to the light of day through your admirable commitment to preserving the past and reminding us where we have been . Some lessons are timeless . Thank you for posting and God Bless .

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