FATAL HABIT OF WALKING IN THE ROAD.
(from The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 12 Feb 1927)
While walking down Boughton Hill on the evening of February 1st, Frank Howland (71), of Price’s Cottage, Horse Lees, Dunkirk, was knocked down by a car driven by Mr. A. H. Davy, of Herman House, London Road, Faversham, and suffered such terrible injuries that he died shortly after admission to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. The direct cause of the accident, according to the evidence at the inquest. was deceased’s dangerous habit of walking in the middle of the road. A contributory cause was the fact that Mr. Davy was temporarily blinded by the strong headlights of a car proceeding in the opposite direction.
The extensive nature of deceased’s injuries drew from Mr. A. K. Mowll (representing Mr. Davy, and himself Deputy Coroner for both East Kent and Canterbury) the remark that he had never known at any inquest the deceased to have so many injuries. The doctor added that it was surprising the deceased lived as long as he did.
The inquest was held by the Canterbury Coroner (Mr. C. A. Gardner) at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital on Friday afternoon. Mr. E. A. Short being foreman of the jury.
Frank Howland, of Snowden House, Dunkirk, milkman, giving evidence of identification, said his father was a widower and was 70 years of age. He was a general labourer and enjoyed good sight and hearing. Witness last saw him alive on Saturday, January 29th, when he was in good health. His father was in the habit of walking in the road, even if there was a footpath. Witness had told him many times that this was not safe and he replied that the footpath was not safe, because it was faulty in places.
In reply to Mr. A. K. Mowll, witness said there was a good footpath down Boughton Hill.
Aouila Henry Davy, of Herman House, London Road, Faversham, wool merchant, said that on Tuesday, February 1st, he was driving a 15 h.p. saloon car from Margate via Canterbury to Faversham. He was proceeding down Boughton Hill between 5.30 and 5.45 p.m. It was dark, with trees on either side. He was about half-way down the hill when n car with very powerful headlights camp up the hill and for the moment the glare from the lights obscured his vision. He dimmed his own lights, but the approaching car did not do so. When he had passed the car, he realised he had struck something — immediately after he had passed car. He was clear of oncoming traffic by a yard but had plenty of room on his left as the road was rather wide. He did not pull in to the left as he passed the other car. There was no footpath on his left, hut there was one on the right, from which someone shouted that he had knocked a man down. He had had his foot-brake on from the brow of the hill and was going steadily. He immediately applied the hand-brake, stopped, and got out. He could see nothing for the moment and a man then told him there was a man under the car. Witness looked and saw a man under the front axle. His foot was just level with the front off wheel. He saw it would be dangerous to move the car by engine power, so he obtained the assistance of passing motorists who helped him to lift the front of the car to draw the man out. The mini was moaning and unconscious. The Sittingbourne ambulance, returning from Dover, came up immediately after the accident and took him to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.
Witness had been driving for ten years and had never had an accident.
Asked his opinion about dimming lights, witness said it was a controversial matter among motorists. For example, on a hill he had found that it made a blank on his left. Some motorists dimmed and others did not. It was practically only a second or two after dimming his lights that he struck deceased. He did not think deceased saw the glare of witness’s lights. The hill was full of cars. He thought deceased was near the centre of the road and would have been affected by the glare of oncoming lights. Witness could not say if deceased would have been lit up by witness’s lights. Witness subsequently reported the matter to the police.
In reply to Mr. Mowll, witness said the off side headlight was bent back and seemed to have taken most of the force of the blow. He was not travelling at more than 10 miles per hour. He thought deceased was found lying on his face.
George Evan Knight, of 41, Court Street, Faversham, said that on February 1st he was proceeding to Canterbury by car and was going up Boughton Hill at about 5.25 p.m. Rather more than half-way up he saw two stationary cars, one facing each way and opposite each other, so that only the centre of the road was open. A man stood in the gap and signalled to him to stop. He drew up behind the car facing Canterbury and went to the other car. He looked under the car and saw a man lying under the front of it with his head pointing towards Faversham and his legs the other way. He appeared to be lying rather on his side and appeared to he jammed. In a short time a number of cars collected and with others witness assisted in raising the front of the car to release the man. Somebody else from the footboard then dragged the man out on the off side from behind the front off wheel. He was alive and moaning, but unconscious. Witness suggested that deceased should not be moved much in case of complications and he then went up the hill and met the ambulance. The car was in the centre of the track of cars proceeding towards Faversham and had not swerved to either side. It was parallel with the side of the road. Witness formed the opinion that the car must have been travelling slowly else it would have either passed over deceased or swerved one wav or the other. There would have been room for the car to have passed over a man lying flat. Witness could not say if deceased was dragged.
In reply to Mr. Mowll, witness said the stationary cars were parallel with each other and he did not see Mr. Davy. He did not think the second car was the one with the headlights.
Witness thought that if one driver dimmed his lights it was a signal of distress which should be answered by dimming, because it meant that the other’s lights were too powerful for the driver to see past.
Mr. A. R. Thompson, house surgeon at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, said diseased was admitted at 6.45 p.m. on February 1st with the information that he had been knocked down by a car on Boughton Hill and brought in by a motor ambulance. On admission he was practically moribund. Some first aid had already been rendered. He was concussed and shocked. His pulse was almost imperceptible and he was bleeding from both ear and mouth. He had a severe lacerated scalp wound with haemorrhage over the right temple bone. He had a large bruise behind the angle of the left jaw extending over the left cheek. He was semi-conscious. He was taken to the ward as soon as possible, hut died about 7.30 p.m. the same day. Witness had since held a post mortem examination and found a fractured upper end of the left femur, a fractured lower end of the right tibia and fibula, a fracture of the middle of the shaft of the left humerus, fractures in two or three places of practically all his ribs, and fracture of the inner end of the right collar bone. He found no fracture of the skull, but there were various other internal injuries caused by the projecting ends of broken ribs. He died from shock, internal haemorrhage, and heart failure, as a result of injuries received.
Mr. Mowll said he could not remember an inquest in which the deceased had so many injuries and the doctor remarked that it was surprising that he had lived so long.
Mr. Davy mentioned that when deceased was brought from beneath the car his clothing was hardly torn or disarranged. which was an indication that he was not travelling fast.
The Coroner, summing up. thought the glare of the headlights of the car ascending the hill was one of the causes of the accident. He thought the necessity of dimming was a vexed question. It was the custom if one driver dimmed his lights for the other to do the same, but it was not legally necessary. nor was it always done. There was often hesitation about dimming the lights. It must be done at some distance before meeting and not suddenly, otherwise one was suddenly blinded. It was not always advisable to dim, and some motorists never did it. The risks were about equal on either side and there was not much in it as long as both did the same thing. Most accidents were caused by both parties not doing the same thing. The Coroner advised keeping one’s eyes on the left of the road to maintain one’s correct position.
Referring to the accident, the Coroner spoke of deceased’s habit of walking in the middle of the road and pointed out that the car was not even on the left side of the road, yet deceased was struck by the off side headlamp. He was in the most dangerous position he possibly could he at night on Boughton Hill. As there was a good footpath on the right, one would not expect to find a pedestrian on that side of the road. He thought the jury would agree that there could be no blame attaching to Mr. Davy for what he did, for the way he drove or for where he was in the road. The sole cause was deceased’s habit of walking in the road.
The jury returned a verdict of Accidental Death and expressed the opinion that nobody was to blame. With the Coroner they joined in offering their deep sympathy to the son. Mr. Mowll expressing Mr. Davy’s great regret and sympathy.
Frank Howland was the husband of my 2nd great aunt Elizabeth Hayward. Frank had been born on 14 Dec 1886 in Elmsted, Kent and married Elizabeth in 1885 at Ashford, Kent. They had 8 children, with Frank of Snowden House, Dunkirk (mentioned in the article) being the oldest. Three of their children had died by the 1911 Census.