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117 years later: Detroit's first fatal car crash

Detroit in 1902 (The Burton Historical Collection -- Detroit Public Library)

DETROIT – On Sep. 2, 1902, just six years after Henry Ford created his first automobile, the Motor City experienced its first deadly car incident.

George William Bissell was 81 years old when he died. Born in Ohio in 1821, he moved to Detroit in 1842 and eventually became one of the largest shipowners in the city. Bissell had partnered with many businesses across the state, becoming a successful and wealthy businessman. 

At about 9 a.m., Bissell was riding a horse-drawn carriage down Brooklyn Avenue when a car struck his carriage. Bissell was thrown from the vehicle and into the street, fracturing his skull

He was pronounced dead at Harper University Hospital at 11:15 a.m.

There is no record of the driver of the car available.

Since that time, Detroit roadway and traffic laws have improved. Woodward Avenue became the first paved road in the country in 1909 when a stretch between Six Mile and Seven Mile roads was paved.

Woodward Avenue was paved in its entirety in 1916. 

The first three-color, four-way traffic light was created by a Detroit police officer, William Potts, in 1920. 

Michigan State Police records show there were more than 55,000 traffic accidents in Wayne County in 2017, but only 147 of them were fatal.