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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 18, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(19):2420. doi:10.1001/jama.293.19.2420-b

The automobile is becoming an important element in our civilization. The record of accidents from its use is becoming appalling. Since January 1 there are said to have occurred in New York City and vicinity no less than seven hundred and ninety-three automobile casualties . . . If this can happen in one city it is not pleasant to think of the possibilities for the whole country. We do not vouch for the figures—which would seem to justify a popular uprising—but, even if exaggerated many fold, they demand action. Much of this record, if not all of it, may be credited to high-speed automobiling, and there seems to be a tendency among chauffeurs, unconsciously it may be in some cases, to take excessive risks in this particular way. Many who are arrested for going beyond the speed established by law indignantly claim, but with apparent sincerity, that they have kept well within the limits, though the facts are all against them. The newspapers have spoken of a sort of automobilimania or speed intoxication to which automobilists are specially liable. Whether such exists or not, it is certain that men supposed to be honorable citizens in other respects are all the while imperiling the lives of their fellow-men, to say nothing of their own, by reckless speeding on the public highways, and this apparently without any conscience or scruples. One New York millionaire is reported to have thirteen accidents to his credit, two of them fatal and nine causing permanent injury. As physicians are beginning to use automobiles very largely, we hope and trust that our profession will keep its record clean in this matter.