How did UK's First road accident occured ?

Bridget Driscoll labourer's wife, 44, took a trip to the Crystal Palace, south-east London, on 17 August 1896.

So she could be forgiven for being bewildered by Arthur Edsall's imported Roger-Benz which was part of a motoring exhibition taking place as she attended a Catholic League of the Cross fete with her 16-year-old daughter, May, and a friend.

But as the Times recalled 70 years later, when giving mention to a memorial service for Mrs Driscoll at her local church, hers was the misfortune of becoming the UK's first traffic fatality.

"At the inquest, Florence Ashmore, a domestic servant, gave evidence that the car went at a 'tremendous pace', like a fire engine - 'as fast as a good horse could gallop'," it read.

"The driver, working for the Anglo-French Motor Co, said that he was doing 4mph when he killed Mrs Driscoll and that he had rung his bell and shouted."

The car's maximum speed, the inquest heard, was 8mph but its speed had been deliberately limited.

One of Mr Edsell's two passengers during the exhibition ride, Ellen Standing, told the inquest she heard the driver shout "stand back" and then the car swerved - giving her a "peculiar sensation", according to a contemporary edition of Autocar.

Mrs Driscoll had hesitated in front of the car and seemed "bewildered" before being hit, the inquest heard.

Three of the German-manufactured, French-assembled cars were being demonstrated at the Dolphin Terrace, an area at the back of the palace, according to an edition of local paper the Norwood News published on 22 August 1896.

It reported May Driscoll as claiming the driver "did not seem to understand what he was doing" and that he had zig-zagged towards them.

"The car then swerved off, and [the] witness looked to see where it was, and it was then going over her mother. (Here witness broke down.) Her mother was knocked down, and the car was at once pulled up," the paper reported, in rather equine terms.

- BBC Exclusive

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