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Coroner of First Vehicle Fatality Hoped It Would Never Happen Again

On August 17, 1896 Bridget Driscoll stepped off a curb and into the path of one of the few vehicles in the country. She became the first-ever pedestrian killed by a vehicle in the UK when she died of a head injury minutes later.

The onlookers said the driver, Arthur Edsel, was traveling at a reckless pace like a fire engine or good horse. Mr. Edsel’s car had a potential top speed of 8 miles per hour, however it was a demonstration car which had deliberately been limited to a maximum speed of only 4 MPH.

Bridget Driscoll (circled). The first person to ever be killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Bridget Driscoll (circled). The first person to ever be killed in a motor vehicle accident.

Edsel argued 4 MPH wasn’t reckless plus he had rung his bell and shouted as a warning. Driscoll, apparently stunned by the approaching vehicle, seemed hesitant and bewildered at what was happening before she was hit according to witnesses.

The jury ruled Mr. Edsel was not guilty after 6 hours of deliberation. Coroner William Percy Morrison said that he hoped such an accident would never happen again. Morrison was the first coroner to report a vehicle related death which he called an accident–a term still used to describe vehicle collisions.

Big auto wreck

A nasty road accident at Waltham, 1921

Unfortunately that would not be the last motor vehicle accident in history. Three years later an engineer named Sewell was demonstrating a new motor to some friends.

As he and a passenger were traveling down a hill at 14 MPH one of the wheel’s rims came off causing Sewell to crash. Sewell and his passenger were ejected from the vehicle causing Sewell to die immediately and his passenger three days later in the hospital.

Nowadays it’s safe to say Morrison would be disappointed to learn vehicles kill thousands and have killed tens of millions since inception.

[Image Credit: History in Photos,