Drivers, Wheels, and Roads: Motor Vehicle Safety in the Twentieth Century

Ann M. Dellinger, David A. Sleet and Bruce H. Jones

in Silent Victories

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780195150698
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199865185 | DOI:
 Drivers, Wheels, and Roads: Motor Vehicle Safety in the Twentieth Century

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The public health problem of motor-vehicle-related death and injury emerged in the 20th century with the advent of new technology-the automobile. In the past 100 years, more than 2.8 million persons have died and nearly 100 million persons have been injured on U.S. roads and highways. Despite these statistics, substantial gains in driver behavior, vehicle safety, and road design improved the safety of motor-vehicle travel despite increases in motorization, shifting demographics, and changing social patterns. This chapter defines the modern public health problem of motor-vehicle travel. It highlights the leadership of William Haddon in revolutionizing the approach to the prevention of motor-vehicle injuries, the role of community organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving in changing social norms, and outlines governmental and private industry efforts to reduce the incidence of death and injury attributable to motor-vehicles. The chapter looks forward to the challenges of transportation safety in the 21st century.

Keywords: public health; 20th century; motor vehicle; injury prevention; transportation safety; driver behaviour; road design; automobile design; William Haddon; drunk driving

Chapter.  8970 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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