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Jaywalking

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And you thought I was going to write about Leno….

Sarah Goodyear has a nice piece at the Atlantic about the invention of jaywalking. Essentially, cars were seen as murderous killers in the early 20th century. States and municipalities passed a series of laws placing the burden on car-pedestrian accidents on the burden of drivers. I have seen several silent films that paint cars as instruments of mass destruction and death. I hoped to link to the early 1910s traffic safety film “The Cost of Carelessness” as an example, but it isn’t on YouTube.

Like much else in the modern city, including housing patterns, road systems, the lack of public transportation, etc., the auto industry used its growing power to lobby against these laws. By the 1950s, law placed the burden of suffering on the pedestrian, to the point of light or nonexistent prosecutions for drunk driving, etc., that MADD lobbied so hard against in the 1970s and 80s.

Always worth thinking of the complex and often perfidious ways in which the auto industry has shaped our cities and society.

….Commenter Rea has found “The Cost of Carelessness” here. It is an excellent way to spend 13 minutes, I assure you. It is probably the most popular of the silent films I force my Progressive Era course to watch. Because everyone likes to see kids get run down in the street, 1913 style.

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