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May 15, 1948 – America Is Accident Prone – Is It Just Us, Or Is The World Getting Complicated And Distracting? – Past Daily Reference Room

Accidents – were we as a nation just accident prone – or was there something more sinister afoot?

Cross-Section U.S.A. – Accidents – May 15, 1948 – CBS Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Accidents. We seemed to have had a preponderance of them in the late 1940s, or at least it seemed that way. Were we distracted, overworked, stressed, or just suicidal?

Hard to tell – but according to the report on this episode of the discussion program Cross-Section U.S.A. it was an epidemic of sorts with an average of some four deaths every few minutes the result of some household mishap, some work-place miscalculation, some distraction behind the wheel, daydreams – or was it a secret death wish?

Nobody knew for sure exactly but everyone had a theory, as they often do. Some blamed household accidents on stress; too much going on at home and not enough time to concentrate. Cutting corners in order to save time resulting in miscalculations with disastrous and sometimes fatal results.

Missing fingers and limbs in factory accidents the result of insufficient training on new equipment – or our determination not to be shown singled-out someone who was unfamiliar with something but who guesstimated only to be met with the same disastrous results.

Traffic accidents were skyrocketing. Newer, faster cars? Distractions behind the wheel? Inability to control temper (long before Road-Rage became a genre). A desire to explore the dare-devil in us all?

Couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, but a suspicion had it we were in the midst of a social and technological upheavals and some of it was just too much to take. In 1948 we were in the midst of an explosion in technology while at the same time being buried knee-deep in Cold War. Our Great National Nervousness and the Red Scare could count for many accidents. Many issues placed on the back-burner owing to the war were now coming front-and-center and reality was uncomfortable.

Whatever it was and it was probably a little bit of everything, it was a problem in America and getting worse every day. The panel of experts discuss the issues, and some of the admittedly go about it in backwards fashion, particularly in the area where “the housewife” was concerned. We were in a period of change, whether we liked it or even knew it.

America was going to have to get used to looking inward for a change. We were on the threshold of the 50s and beyond.

Here is that episode of Cross-Section U.S.A. from May 15, 1948.

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