On this day in history : 17th August 1896 – Mrs Bridget Driscoll, from Croydon, Surrey is the first person in Britain to be knocked down by a car and killed….

Bridget, aged 44, had been on a visit to the Crystal Palace with her 16-year-old daughter; as part of the exhibition automobiles were being demonstrated…. People were unfamiliar with these new horseless carriages and many were unsure how to react around them….

Bridget Driscoll (circled) Public domain (this version – Madgamers via Wikimedia)

The driver of the Roger-Benz, an employee of the Anglo-French Motor Co., had only been driving for three weeks (there were no driving tests back then)…. He claimed he was only doing 4mph and had rung his bell and shouted “Stand back!”…. But as he swerved and zig-zagged towards them Bridget Driscoll hesitated and appeared bewildered…. Bridget had the misfortune of becoming Britain’s first motoring fatality – at the time there were fewer than 20 cars on the roads….

At the inquest her death was given an ‘accidental death’ verdict – the coroner stated that he hoped “this would be the last death in this sort of accident”…. It is estimated there have been more than 550,000 people killed on Britain’s roads since then….

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