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100 years ago in Salford: Girl almost killed by ‘arrogant’ driver on Regent Street

Road safety has come a long way since the early days of motoring, but sadly it was not advanced enough to stop this near-fatal Salford accident in October 1915.

Eccles Magistrates Court heard the rather disturbing story of a man charged with dangerous driving after a young girl was knocked over on Regent Street, Eccles.

Warrington-born Joseph Mason was driving along Regent Street at around 3.50pm on 8 October when he attempted an ambitious overtaking manoeuvre on a horse and cart, veering out into the wrong lane and smashing into young Alice Bell, who was crossing the road.

The poor girl, who lived in a small terrace on Regent Street, suffered head injuries in the accident and was scooped up by a passerby, local barber Fred Berry, who carried her into his shop.

Her desperate father arrived at the scene shortly after.

Private car ownership was still very rare in 1915 so Mason would have to have been extremely wealthy to afford the vehicle.

With disturbing arrogance Mason refused both to open his door to check on the girl’s condition, and to answer any questions, instead telling the onlookers crowding around the scene to “check his licence plate” to discover his name and address.

The court heard from Superintendent Keys of the Eccles police force that there were several witnesses, including Mrs Sarah Josephs of 26 Regent Street. She testified that the car was not speeding but was on the wrong side of the road, and the young girl was in the middle of the road when she was struck.

Mr Mason entered the witness box and told the Magistrate that he had three passengers in the car including an invalid boy, an invalid gentleman and his wife.

He said that he was returning from Ardwick where he had been to see a specialist in regards to the boy’s condition, and therefore “he could only drive slow”.

He admitted that he had seen the girl in the middle of the road and had blown his horn to warn her, and by swerving to avoid the girl he had possibly saved her life!

The passengers in the car also gave evidence in defence of Mr Mason, saying that he had considerable experience and they always found him to be a careful driver.

Mr F.S. Oppenheim, defending Mason, pleaded for leniency on behalf of his client, suggesting it may have been an error of judgement but there was little evidence to convict, and that any decisions Magistrates reached could have considerable bearing on the outcome of any civil action that might arise from this case.

Summing up, the Magistrate, Mr Wilson said that if Mr Mason had time to blow his horn to warn the child surely he had time to apply his brakes and stop the vehicle?

Mason was fined £5 and five shillings plus 10 shillings costs for witnesses.

Sadly, 100 years later, car accidents involving children are still a regular occurrence.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.