August 17th, 1896 – First Person Killed by a Car

Today-In-History

Bridget Driscoll was the first pedestrian victim of an automobile collision on August 17th, 1896 in the United Kingdom. As she and her teenage daughter May and her friend Elizabeth Murphy crossed Dolphin Terrace in the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London, Driscoll was struck by an automobile belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company that was being used to give demonstration rides. One witness described the car as traveling at “a reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine”.

BDriscoll

Bridget Driscoll (1851 – August 17th, 1896) circled.

Although the car’s maximum speed was 8 miles per hour (13 km/h) it had been limited deliberately to 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h), the speed at which the driver, Arthur James Edsall of Upper Norwood, claimed to have been traveling. His passenger, Alice Standing of Forest Hill, alleged he modified the engine to allow the car to go faster, but another taxicab driver examined the car and said it was incapable of exceeding 4.5 miles per hour (7.2 km/h) because of a low-speed engine belt. The accident happened just a few weeks after a new Act of Parliament had increased the speed limit for cars to 14 miles per hour (23 km/h), from 2 miles per hour in towns and 4 miles per hour in the countryside.

The jury returned a verdict of “accidental death” after an inquest enduring some six hours, and no prosecution was made. The coroner, Percy Morrison, (Croydon division of Surrey) said he hoped “such a thing would never happen again.” The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimate 550,000 people had been killed on UK roads by 2010.


 

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