Car Wrecks of the 1930s: Highway Safety Prior to Seat Belts and Airbags

November 7, 2021

The cars of yesteryear could be quite dangerous. Sure, they were slower than today’s vehicles, but they also lacked standard safety features, like seat belts, airbags, shatterproof glass, and bumpers. Basically metal boxes on narrow tires, cars of the past were not designed with a thorough understanding of physics. They were top-heavy and prone to tipping, as you can see in this collection of colorized photographs from the 1930s. 

Those skinny tires made old cars less stable. (

Although there were a fair number of tragic deaths from car accidents in the 1920s and 1930s, these colorized photos will give you a look at the more comical and unbelievable car wrecks of the time. 

Early Car Wrecks

How on earth did this happen? (

In the first few decades of automobile use, car wrecks were not uncommon. First, folks were not used to driving motorized vehicles. Second, the cars themselves could be glitchy. Engines died, tires blew, frames collapsed, and more because production standards and safety measures were not yet in place. In the 1920s, the National Safety Council was established. It was tasked with keeping stats on car accidents, as well as raising public awareness about safe driving. Cars were still a novelty item into the 1930s. When a car crash happened, crowds of onlookers flocked to the scene to take in the carnage. Fortunately for us, they also snapped photographs.