When Henry Bliss stepped off a streetcar at Central Park West and 74th Street in New York, on September 13, 1899, he didn't look, and was hit by an electric taxi. The accident was the first fatality in the U.S. involving an automobile. At the time, there were fewer than 8,000 cars in the whole country. As the number of registered automobiles climbed rapidly, so did the number of deaths. In 1980, some 53,000 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 hovered around 43,000 to 45,000 fatalities annually, even though the number of cars continues to increase.
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