Who Was the First Person Ever to Die in a Car Crash?

All you need to know about the earliest car crash fatalities.

4 min readApr 14, 2022

Photo Credits: Pinterest

Every year, around 1.3 million people die of road traffic accidents worldwide.

Furthermore, road accidents are the leading cause of death among those in the 5–29 age demographic.

Traveling by car is staggeringly unsafe, with flying being far safer than driving in almost all metrics.

By now, tens of millions of people have lost their lives in car accidents.

This begs the question: who was the first person to die in a car crash?

Answering this question is more complicated than it may seem.

Firstly, we must define what we mean by a “car crash.”

Do we mean the first car-pedestrian accident?

Or the first car-car accident?

Or do we perhaps mean the first accident where the driver was killed?

Let’s look at a few of these scenarios.

The Death of a Scientist

Miss Mary Ward | Photo Credits: Science History Institute

The earliest death related to automobiles was the death of Mary Ward.

On the 31st of August, 1869, Ward took a trip in her cousin’s newest invention: an automobile.

During the ride, Ward was thrust in front of the vehicle by a violent jolt.

What followed was nothing short of a nightmare, the car’s wheels crushed her, and she died instantly.

The car was going at an unimpressive three mph when the accident occurred!

This unfortunate ordeal ended the life of an accomplished naturalist, observationalist, and renowned illustrator.

Her skills and career were nothing less than prodigious, and the 42-year-old Irishwoman still had much science left in her when she met her untimely demise.

She had many self-published books on her microscopic research, illustrating them herself.


I am a History Educator and a Lifelong Learner with a Masters in Global History.