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Death of Bridget Driscoll

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Bridget Driscoll
Bridget Driscoll (circled)
Bridget Swift

Died17 August 1896 (aged 44)
Croydon, Surrey, England
Resting placeQueen's Road Cemetery
Known forFirst recorded pedestrian to be killed by a motor car in Great Britain

The death of Bridget Driscoll (née Swift;[1] c. 1851 – 17 August 1896) was the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed in a collision with a motor car in Great Britain.[2][3]

Driscoll was born in Ireland but living in Surrey with her husband and children at the time of her death. She had planned a three-day trip to London to attend a League of the Cross festival.[1] She was in the company of her teenage daughter May and her friend Elizabeth Murphy and was crossing Dolphin Terrace in the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London when she was struck by the driver of a car belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company that was being used to give demonstration rides.[3] One witness described the car as being driven at "a reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine".[3]

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 travelling. 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 collision 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.[3]

The jury returned a verdict of "accidental death" after an inquest lasting some six hours. 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 estimated 550,000 people had been killed on UK roads by 2010.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Clancy, CJ (12 January 2022). "Bridget O'Driscoll: First pedestrian killed in a car accident in 1896". Irish Central. Retrieved 17 February 2024.
  2. ^ Kunkle, Fredrick (22 March 2018). "Fatal crash with self-driving car was a first – like Bridget Driscoll's was 121 years ago with one of the first cars". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e McFarlane, Andrew (17 August 2010). "How the UK's first fatal car accident unfolded". BBC News. Retrieved 27 August 2013.

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