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Bridget Driscoll

On 17th August 1896, Bridget Driscoll, age 44 or 45, became the world’s first person to be killed in a car accident. As she and her teenage daughter, May, (and possibly one other person) crossed the grounds of the Crystal Palace, an automobile belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Car Company and being used to give demonstration rides struck her at a speed witnesses described as, “A reckless pace, in fact, like a fire engine.”

The driver was Arthur James Edsall of Upper Norwood who claimed that he had only been doing 4mph and that he had rung his bell as a warning. His passenger, Alice Standing of Forest Hill, alleged he modified the engine to allow the car to go faster although another cabbie analyzed the car and said it was incapable of passing 4½mph because of a low-speed belt.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” after an inquest lasting some six hours. The coroner, Percy Morrison, said he hoped, “Such a thing would never happen again.” No prosecution was made.

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