The story begins at the dawn of the automobile era. “By the end of the 1920s, more than 200,000 Americans had been killed by automobiles. Most of these fatalities were pedestrians in cities, and the majority of these were children,” writes Oatman-Stanford.
Later in the 20th century, after an effective campaign by “motordom” to protect the business of selling cars, new safety improvements like seat belts and highway standards were not enough to eliminate the public health threats manifest by automobiles. “Although organizations like the CDC have applied this public-health approach to the issue for decades now, automobiles remain a huge danger. While the annual fatality rate has dropped significantly from its 1930s high at around 30 deaths for every 100,000 persons to 11 per 100,000 in recent years, car crashes are still a top killer of all Americans. For young people, motor-vehicle collisions remain the most common cause of death.”
To make the point about the cultural shift needed to finally eliminate the car as a threat to public health, Oatman-Stanford quotes Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic: The Dam of the Motor Age in the American City: “The people who really get it today, in 2014, know that the battle isn’t to change rules or put in signs or paint things on the pavement…The real battle is for people’s minds, and this mental model of what a street is for.”