Bridget Driscoll gained instant notoriety when she stepped off the kerb and into the history books on August 17th 1896. Mrs Driscoll, a 44 year old housewife, who was travelling from Old Town, Croydon to a folk-dancing display in Crystal Palace, became the first pedestrian in the UK to be killed by a car.
Driscoll, a resident of Croydon, was hit by a demonstration car travelling at 4mph. She died within minutes of receiving a head injury.
At Mrs Driscoll's inquest, Coroner William Percy Morrison said he hoped that "such a thing would never happen again" and was the first to apply the term "accident" to violence caused by speed. Coroners across the country have followed his example ever since.
Witnesses said that the car, driven by Arthur Edsel, was travelling at a reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine.
Mr Edsel claimed that he had only been doing 4 mph and that he had rung his bell as a warning. The jury took six hours to reach a verdict that Mrs. Driscoll had died of accidental death. A vehicle similar to the one shown on the right below, may have attended Bridget Driscoll's accident. Road Safety Milestone
Three years later, on 25th February 1899, a 31 year old engineer named Sewell was demonstrating a wagonette motor car to some friends.
As he was driving down Grove Hill, Harrow, Middx, at 14 mph, a wheel shed its rim. Sewell and his front seat passenger, a Major Richer, were thrown from the car. Sewell was killed instantly and Major Richer died three days later in hospital.
Since the invention of the motor vehicle over a century ago, it is estimated that about 30 million people have been killed in road crashes. A recent review of road deaths world-wide estimated that between 750,000 and 880,000 lives were lost in road crashes in 1999, a conservative estimate compared with earlier World Health Organisation figures. Source: Global Road Safety Partnership