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Antique Car with a Pedestrian Safety Device

Early Pedestrian Safety Devices – Inventions to Help Save Lives

Bridget Driscoll apparently was the first pedestrian killed in an accident in 1896 when she was struck by a car belonging to the Anglo-French Motor Carriage Company in London, England. Henry H. Bliss was the first to die in America in 1899 when he stepped off of a streetcar and was hit by and electric-powered taxicab in New York City. Shortly thereafter inventors probably went to work on some of the first of many Pedestrian Safety Devices that were built and tested in the last century.

Some of the earliest devices were patterned after the pilot or cowcatcher as it was commonly known, and first used on a locomotive in the early 1800s. Only three of the many different types of the devices that have been designed and built over the years are shown here along with a video of one at the bottom of the post. All of them appear to be aimed at low-speed city traffic where the pedestrian was still likely be injured, but the device might save their live by preventing them from getting run over.


Ariejan Bos sent in the lead photo at the top of the post and the image directly above of a device constructed in the Netherlands that was named the Protector. The safety net like contraption scooped up the hapless pedestrian and hopefully kept the person from going under the car. Ariejan believes that the car may be a Brown that was built in the UK until 1911.

Model T Ford with a Pedestrian Safety Devices

The device above mounted on a Model “T” Ford Taxi Cab was a simple guard constructed of metal and mesh. It was patterned after the cowcatcher and was used to deflect, catch and keep the pedestrian from ending up under the car.

Antique truck with a Pedestrian Safety Devices

The Man-Catcher above, outfitted with complex guards and long fenders once again prevents the person from being run over; it was found via Anorak. Below is a British Pathe video found by reader Dennis M. that shows a device similar to the one shown at the top of the post. The demonstration does not show up on the video until the 0.15 mark, but it is well worth watching.


7 responses to “Early Pedestrian Safety Devices – Inventions to Help Save Lives

  1. Ralph Nader wanted hood ornaments to be banned from cars because he thought
    that in a collision with a pedestrian they might become impaled by the ornament.

  2. Tho’ I’m still not convinced these devices saved pedestrians from being run over … it’s remarkable that the idea for what’s called the “cow catcher” or “pilot” came from Charles Babbage in the 1830s.

    This is the same Babbage who designed the first massive mechanical calculator/printer, the Difference Engine.

    Tom M.

  3. Briefcase, natty overcoat, and Snidley Whiplash pose… I know a lawyer when I see one, and I believe that’s what is standing at the door of the car in the 1st image.

    Perhaps in a natural order of the world, he was on the scene as the first ambulance chaser. Or maybe just a patent attorney.

  4. How many pedestrians would be standing with their back to the car if they were hit? Most would be walking across the road, and would be side on. I would think that there would be a good chance that they wouldn’t fall neatly into the catcher?

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