Little Bits of History

Watch Where You Are Walking

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 17, 2014
Bridget Driscoll

Bridget Driscoll

August 17, 1896: Bridget Driscoll dies. She was born in 1851 in Ireland and lived in Croydon, Surrey, England at the time of her death. Bridget and her teenage daughter May and a friend, Elizabeth Murphy, were crossing Dolphin Terrace on the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London. Bridget was struck by a car belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company and driven by Arthur James Edsall. The car was being used to give demonstration rides and demonstrated more than had been bargained for. Florence Ashmore, a witness, described the car as travelling at “a reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine.”

The maximum speed of the car was a blistering 8 mph. But the car had been modified to go even slower. There was a low-speed engine belt added which prevented the car from exceeding the speed of 4.5 mph. One of his two passengers at the time, Alice Standing, claimed that the car had been able to go faster but independent inspection by another taxicab driver confirmed the placement of the belt. Parliament had just increased the speed limit for cars to 14 mph from the previous limit of 2 mph in town and 4 mph in the countryside. A court heard the case and after six hours of testimony, ruled the death accidental. The coroner, Percy Morrison, said at the trial that he hoped “such a thing would never happen again.” Bridget had been the first pedestrian killed in the UK.

During the case it was brought to light that the driver of the car had both rung his bell and shouted at the pedestrian to “stand back” as he swerved the car in an attempt to miss Bridget. Ellen Standing said the swerving motion had left her with a “peculiar sensation.” There had been three cars being demonstrated on the day and May claimed that the driver didn’t seem to know what he was doing. Her mother had stopped directly in front of the car and was struck and knocked down. The car then ran over the prostrate woman. Edsall had been driving only for three weeks and there were no licenses issued at the time. The newspaper reports of the time give no hint to any public outrage or any hysteria over this new menace.

Mary Ward was killed in 1869 while travelling as a passenger in County Offaly, Ireland (then part of the United Kingdom) and she was the first traffic fatality of any kind in the UK. Henry Bliss was the first motor accident victim in the US in 1899. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents believes that about 550,000 have been killed on United Kingdom road by 2010. In the US alone, almost 4,000 people are killed in accidents each year.

A lot of people didn’t want drivers running around the country scaring horses. – Patrick Collins

The Victorians had no real sense of health and safety. They would just sort of accept the death as what they would call a horrible tragedy. – Jerry Savage

It was such a rare animal to be on the roads and, for her to be killed, people would have thought the story was made up. – Melvyn Harrison

The reason there are two senators for each state is so that one can be the designated driver. – Jay Leno

Also on this day: Good Grief – In 2002, the Charles M. Schultz Museum and Research Center opens.
The Eagle Has Landed – In 1978, the first successful crossing of the Atlantic in a balloon successfully concluded.
Quake Lake – In 1959, Quake Lake forms after an earthquake.
That’s Hot – In 1807, a steamship left dock.


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