There's blood on the windshield in this shocking collection of traffic safety films, some as gruesome as anything in a horror movie! In the wake of World War II, there were more cars on the streets and newly-constructed highways of the U.S.A. than ever before. The Highway Safety Foundation worried that Americans were not properly obeying the rules of the road. Enlisting the movie industry (never known for its subtlety) to shock people into driving properly, the resulting films went overboard in their depiction of horrendous car crashes and mangled victims. If anything, they created an audience of moviegoers eager to see real-life death and destruction, culminating in such ‘pseudo-documentaries' as Faces of Death (1978) and its imitators. You'll think twice about getting into a car after watching these vintage films!
SAFETY OR SLAUGHTER (1958): Believed to be the first movie to use actual road accident footage, Safety or Slaughter unknowingly kicked off years of graphic traffic safety films! Host Gordon Anderson, "general manager of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association", explains that when an adult gives a teenager "a car for the evening so they can have a good time" it's "just like giving them a loaded gun!" (and then points a .45 at the camera!) Horrific accidents can only be prevented by eliminating "human factors" such as "fatigue, poor vision, irritation, and just plain bad manners."
INTERRUPTED MORNING (1961): Interrupted Morning begins with a solemn Raymond Burr seated at his desk. "As usual, I'm working on a dramatic case," TV's Perry Mason says, "but in this instance, I'm a prosecuting attorney...an accuser." His argument for the necessity of seatbelts is a good one, particularly since "FBI agents, state troopers, and racing drivers" all wear them! The man who once pursued Godzilla finally confesses, "I'll tell you something quite honest. Living is...very important to me."
WHEELS OF TRAGEDY (1963): For some reason, the Ohio State Highway Patrol produced the most gruesome of all the traffic safety films. Wheels of Tragedy is no exception, as it follows patrolmen Bill Bradley and Charles C. McQue, who we are assured are "not actors" (which explains line readings like, "Did you need...uhhh...an ambulance?") on the beginning of a holiday weekend. It isn't long before traffic casualties start piling up by the dozens, including two sleepy drivers who end up in the morgue because they "don't sell coffee on Highway 71!"
BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE (1964): Raymond Burr wasn't the only celebrity who got roped into promoting seatbelt safety. The same year he danced with cartoon penguins in Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke hosted this earnest dissertation on the importance of seatbelts. He even shares a near-death experience of his own! "Without a seat belt," the beloved actor cheerfully announces, "I would've gone head first through a hard cement wall!" To hammer Dick's point home, crash test dummies are shown being smashed to pieces.
DECADE OF HIGHWAY DEATH (1971): Decade of Highway Death abandons any pretense of a story to present a "greatest hits" retrospective on the 10th anniversary of the Highway Safety Foundation, with only a grim narrator holding things together. "You say you can't remember what the Highway Safety Foundation does?' he asks, "We showed you the injured, the dying...the dead. We showed you...pain." After close to a half-hour of bleeding wounds and mangled bodies, it's doubtful anyone could possibly forget. "We will continue to make motion pictures that will shock you," he concludes, "and, possibly, make you ill."