120 Years Ago: The UK’s first fatal car accident

Today is the 120th anniversary of the UK’s first fatal car accident.

What Happened?

120 years ago today on August 17th 1896 44-year-old Bridget Driscoll was crossing the Dolphin Terrace in Crystal Palace, London. She was walking with her 16-year-old daughter and her friend when she was struck by a car owned by the Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company. The car was being used to give demonstration rides.

A witness described the car as driving recklessly, “like a fire engine.” By today’s standards the car would have appeared to be moving slowly. The car’s maximum speed was only 8mph, and this had been deliberately limited to 4mph. The car zigzagged towards Mrs Driscoll whilst the driver reportedly rang a bell and shouted a warning. However, as there were less than 20 petrol cars on the road at the time, it is unsurprising that Mrs Driscoll froze in her confusion.

She was subsequently run over by the vehicle and killed. The incident happened just as cars were beginning to become more sophisticated. A new Act of Parliament had only just increased the speed limit to 14mph. When the case went to court a jury ruled that the incident was an ‘accidental death’ and no prosecution was made. The coroner said he, “hoped such a thing would never happen again.”

An Increase in Fatalities

Of course, this would not be the case, and road fatalities have tended to steadily increase over time until recently. According to the Department for Transport’s 2013 Report on Britain’s Road Casualties, 1,713 deaths on the road were reported to the police just in that year. This is a 2% decrease from the previous year, half of those reported in 2000, and the lowest figure since national records began in 1926.[1]

The falling number of casualties is extremely promising. However, the report still suggested that in 2013 a total number of 138,660 personal-injury road accidents of all severities were reported to the police. This includes everything from minor injuries to death.

Have You Been Involved in a Road Traffic Accident?

Every year people are involved in road traffic accidents that are not their fault. If you are a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian who has been involved in a road traffic accident (RTA) which was not your fault, then you may be entitled to make a claim for personal injury compensation and out of pocket expenses such as loss of earnings.

You can have a look at more information about road traffic accident claims here: and see how we’ve obtained up to £160,000 in compensation for one of our clients!

If you want to quickly see if you have a claim, you can go to our claimometer here: or call us today on: 0800 025 0000


[1] ‘Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2013 Annual Report,’ Department for Transport,

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