Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Street Safety

Eyes on the Street, 83 Years Ago: The Brooklyn Death-O-Meter

death-o-meter

This is how our forebears raised awareness about the dangers of speeding and reckless driving, and it seemed appropriate to share while the Stop Speeding Summit is going on today. The Death-O-Meter, installed by the Brooklyn Safety Council at Grand Army Plaza in 1927, tracked serious injuries and fatalities in Brooklyn and put the information on display for everyone to see.

I think what's jarring about this picture is the willingness to publicly tell drivers, without beating around the bush, that their actions behind the wheel have potentially fatal consequences. The Death-O-Meter assigned agency to motorists in a way that you rarely see in the modern press, police statements, or the courts.

I haven't been able to pin down when the Death-O-Meter went away, or when the Brooklyn Safety Council disbanded, but I can point you to the definitive history of safety councils (which were formed in just about every U.S. city in the early part of the last century) and the social upheavals that accompanied the dawn of mass motoring in America. Go get a copy of Peter Norton's Fighting Traffic. If you're reading this post, I guarantee you will find it illuminating and deeply engrossing. And you'll never look at this Dodge Challenger ad quite the same way again.

Hat tip to reader Daniel Bowman Simon for the Death-O-Meter pic.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Gotcha-Heimer! Anti-Congestion Pricing Jersey Rep. With a City Speeding Ticket Drove to Manhattan on Wednesday

New Jersey's most vociferous opponent of congestion pricing parked illegally and once got a speeding ticket.

April 24, 2024

Under Threat of Federal Suit (Again!), City Hall Promises Action on ‘Unacceptable’ Illegal Police Parking

A deputy mayor made a flat-out promise to eliminate illegal police parking that violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. But when? How? We don't know.

April 24, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: Four for Fifth Edition

The good news? There's a new operator for the Fifth Avenue open street. The bad news? It's four blocks, down from 15 last year. Plus other news.

April 24, 2024

MTA Plan to Run Brooklyn-Queens Train on City Streets a ‘Grave’ Mistake: Advocates

A 515-foot tunnel beneath All Faiths Cemetery would slightly increase the cost of the project in exchange for "enormous" service benefits, a new report argues.

April 24, 2024

Full Court Press by Mayor for Congestion Pricing Foe Randy Mastro

Pay no attention to that lawyer behind the curtain fighting for New Jersey, the mayor's team said on Tuesday, channeling the Wizard of Oz.

See all posts