This 1950 Disney Cartoon About Bad Driving And Pedestrian Safety Still Holds Up Today
We all know the cliche: Los Angeles streets are full of dangerous drivers and pedestrians cheat death with every step. Walt Disney captured that mindset nearly 70 years ago with the Goofy short Motor Mania, released in 1950. With a few updates to the animation, it could easily be released again today and make perfect sense to Angelenos.
Road rage, hit-and-runs, freeway merging, red lights, street racing, bad parking jobs, distracted drivers, an overwhelming sense of entitlement and death-dodging pedestrians — this short has it all (plus, can you spot the eerie foreshadowing of the scooter craze?). See for yourself below.
That freeway merging bit is still on point for anyone who's had to get on the 110 north of the 5 Freeway (see also the Disney short Freewayphobia from 1965).
And the scenes on pedestrian hazards completely translate for today's audience, especially in L.A., where pedestrian deaths have risen sharply in recent years. That comes as the city ramps up Mayor Eric Garcetti's Vision Zero plan, which aims to "end all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2025."
That initiative has had a rocky start. Traffic deaths jumped 43 percent in the first full year of the program. L.A. cyclists staged a protest outside a high-profile transportation conference downtown earlier this month, saying the mayor has not done enough to protect cyclists and pedestrians on city streets. While pedestrian deaths were up, overall traffic deaths were down slightly last year.
Pedestrians and cyclists were involved in about 14 percent of traffic collisions in L.A. from 2010-2016, but accounted for 51 percent of traffic fatalities in that time period, according to city data.
Nationwide, an estimated 40,100 people died on U.S. roadways last year, according to the National Safety Council. In 1950, when Motor Mania was released, the Federal Highway Administration recorded 33,186 traffic deaths (that same agency reported 37,133 deaths in 2017).
The fatality rate, per 100 million vehicle miles traveled annually, has been dropping steadily since the turn of the 20th century. In 1950 it was 7.24 percent, compared to 1.16 percent last year. So, we've come a long way since the rise of the automobile, but as this old Goofy cartoon shows, we're still dealing with the same problems.