TTC marks 120th anniversary of first road death with warning to motorists

12.00 | 18 August 2016 | | 5 comments

To mark the 120th anniversary of the first person – a pedestrian – to be killed in a road crash in the UK, the TTC Group is calling on motorists to watch out for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Bridget Driscoll was hit by a new petrol-engined car as she crossed the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London on 17 August 1896.

The car was being used to give demonstration rides with the driver later accused of travelling at the “reckless” speed of 4mph.

At Mrs Driscoll’s inquest, the coroner said he hoped “such a thing would never happen again”. However since then, there has been more than half a million road deaths in the UK.

The number of road deaths has fallen over the years. In 1934, 7,343 people were killed on the UK’s road network, compared to 3,201 in 2005 and 1,732 in 2015.

Pedestrians are some of the most vulnerable road-users. In 2015, 409 were killed, representing 24% of all road deaths. 

To mark the anniversary the TTC Group, whose road safety programme educates 330,000 people each year, has urged motorists to re-read the Highway Code and to adopt the “C.O.A.S.T.” safer driving strategy:

  • Concentrate – focus on the driving task and avoid distractions such as mobile phones
  • Observe – Read the road actively and scan for vulnerable road user
  • Anticipate – Expect the worst and be prepared. Always think – what if ?
  • Space – always leave at least a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front on a dry road. In the wet this needs to be at least doubled
  • Time – Don’t rush – plan your journey and allow yourself plenty of time to think, plan and act – rushing can lead to poor decisions and a possible collision

Alan Prosser, director of the TTC Group, said: “Drivers must look out for pedestrians and other vulnerable road-users. Driver error is a recognised factor in around 95% of collisions

“We have to share the road space safely with each other. Be aware of what is around you. Always maintain a safe distance, this gives us time to respond to any incident and helps to make sure you can stop in plenty of time.

“Drivers can feel very detached from the outside environment and misjudge safer following distances. If you are following traffic then you should be at least two seconds behind in dry weather, if the road is wet this should be doubled.

“At 30mph, the overall stopping distance is around 75ft or 23 metres, that’s over two bus lengths, and that’s with ideal road and weather conditions. A car moving at just 30 mph travels over a bus length every second.”



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    I have long believed that the world ‘vulnerability’ is key in road safety and ought to be adopted far more widely that it is currently. Of course there is a high vulnerability for those who are not protected by a metal box but, therein to some extent lies the issue. It was Graham Hill who, perhaps slightly tongue in cheek, suggested that to improve road safety all vehicles should be topless so that there was no physical barrier between drivers; thereby suggesting that people would be more thoughtful and courteous to one another. And to some extent I feel he was right. But taking that just a stage further I believe a driver’s safety should be graded by his or her vulnerability to crashes. A good example of this is in the following distance. Anyone at two seconds or less (yes my old soap box, but one of the fundamental keys to being safe on the roads) is highly vulnerable to hitting the vehicle in front if that one needed to do an emergency stop. By that reference the majority of drivers are highly vulnerable and, in effect, like the next crash waiting to happen. Always also remembering that what you can’t see can hurt you, so blind areas on the nearside, for example between parked vehicles, are possibly sources of little people emerging. The key here, where possible, is to leave five feet (as one should for cyclists) or, if not possible to reduce speed so that one could stop in time if the unexpected happened. So in reality vulnerability does not just apply to pedestrains and cyclists. If you can get drivers to appreciate their vulnerability then there is a good chance the impact (sic!) on the former will automatically be reduced because they will leave more space and time. And space and time are the keys to reducing vulnerabity. That’s space to the sides as well as to the front and rear.

    Nigel ALBRIGHT
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    Nick’s comment in his first para “…how on earth did they manage to collide?” was my first thought as well – mind you, nothing changes, as I still think that now whenever I read collision reports! ‘Observe’ and ‘anticipate’ are the key words and – fairly obviously – always be able to stop. I think there’s a lot to be said for the ‘strict liability’ notion, when it comes to pedestrian collisions – it might focus drivers’ minds a bit more.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I really would like to see the witness statements from the first road death in the UK! Bearing in mind the car was doing 4mph whilst no doubt making a cacophonous din and Ms Driscoll was more than likely walking more slowly than that, how on earth did they manage to collide?

    Perhaps the driver thought “of course she will see/hear me and will avoid me” whilst Ms Driscoll was thinking similar? Whatever the combination of those thoughts were I am led to believe that both could have taken some avoiding actions to have prevented the incident.

    I do have some discomfort with campaigns which “target” either driver or pedestrian behaviours in isolation to the other participants’ challenges in manoeuvring around the highway network. Perhaps if drivers were reminded of the challenges that pedestrians face they would be more likely to “expect” them to enter the carriageway “unexpectedly”. Likewise, if pedestrians were reminded to think of challenges drivers face and how many potential hazards they could be facing at any one given time they may be more likely to take more care when walking around.

    Having read many witness statements and Stats 19 collision descriptions over the years then I am presently concluding that most pedestrian collisions have been contributed to by both the behaviour of the pedestrian and the driver. However when it comes to young casualties I think that pedestrian behaviour is perhaps more of a contribution to the collision occurring than driver behaviour. Can we really expect unaccompanied 5-10 year olds to all survive being on the highway by themselves? It seems to be that no matter how slowly a vehicle is going some children will end up colliding with them. If all drivers were aware that due to the way a child’s brain works that they are susceptible to entering a carriageway without properly checking every time then they may be more set up to take avoiding action if possible. Whether drivers would have sympathy for adults who walk out unexpectedly I have more doubt. Perhaps these avoiding actions become more possible with lower speeds – if so then we need to find a way to reduce speeds.

    Autonomous vehicles or human controlled ones with technology to “know the speed limit” at a given point may be the only answer if humans can’t be trusted themselves. As to what the correct speed limit is – well that discussion can be left for another day…….

    Nick, Lancashire
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    Taking into account the “perception-reaction” time as well as the actual braking distance then 75ft at 30mph would seem reasonable given a dry surface.

    The following 2012 research report provides a useful analysis of the issues and for 30mph comes out with 94ft in an emergency situation, dry roads (130ft on wet) and a “short” reaction time.

    But more typically taking into account perception and reaction realities comes up with a “safe stopping distance” of 200ft. See :-

    So, overall the TTC comment does seem reasonable or perhaps even rather low in real world conditions.

    Rod King, Cheshire, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    Does it really take “over two bus lengths” to stop from 30? Are they still referring to 1896? I suspect it might be different in a modern car in 2016.

    Dave Finney, Slough
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