On this day in history….17th August 1896

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….

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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….

On this day in history….14th June 1961

On this day in history : 14th June 1961 – The Ministry of Transport announces a new type of road crossing…. If trials are successful the panda crossing would replace the zebra crossing….

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Promotional illustration – image via Roads.org.uk – fair use

The Government had become concerned by the rise in accidents at zebra crossings – which had been introduced in 1951 when there were just two million cars on Britain’s roads…. By 1961 this number had increased to over 10 million….and in the first six months of 1960 some 533 had been killed or injured at uncontrolled zebra crossings, compared to 447 in the same period of 1959…. Transport minister Ernest Marples hoped by enabling a method of control at pedestrian crossings “some of the dangerous uncertainties of the present system would be eliminated”….

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Zebra crossing with Belisha beacons, Abbey Road, London….the one featured on the Beatles album…. Image : Misterweiss at English Wikipedia – Public domain

The new panda crossing consisted a triangular black and white stripes – rather than the rectangular ones of the zebra crossing…. A push button on either side of the road controlled a set of flashing lights; pedestrians would push the button and wait at the flashing light…. Drivers would simultaneously be warned to slow down by an amber flashing light – which then turned red…. At the same time a ‘WALK’ sign would appear to the pedestrian….which after a specified time would start to flash to warn that the lights for the motorist were about to turn green again….

The new system was to be installed on a twelve month experimental trial at between 40 and 50 sites in England and Wales…. The very first panda crossing had been installed on the 2nd of April 1961 outside Waterloo station and it had been decided to test in on a larger scale…. Included in the overall number were thirteen in Guildford and ten in Lincoln….

However, the scheme had to be abandoned in 1967 as pedestrians and motorists complained it was too confusing….and there were also too many mechanical failures…. In 1969 it was replaced with the far more successful pelican crossing – and this was superseded by the puffin crossing in the 1990s – using sensors to detect pedestrian and car flow and thus controlling traffic automatically….

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Pelican crossing control panel – Secretlondon CC BY-SA 3.0