In 1911, just 89,000 cars were on the road – one for every 400 people – but accidents were more common, according to the Aviva archive.
The first government statistics date from 1930, when one in every 14 cars were involved in crashes.
In 2011, the rate has decreased to one in every 222 vehicles, with almost 30 million cars and motorcycles now on the roads.
In 1911, the drivers were more likely to see horses than other cars as they outnumbered cars by 36 to one with 3.2 million regularly on the roads.
Claims from when animals came in to conflict with cars include:
- A farmer who claimed after his horse died from shock at the sight of a passing motor car (1911)
- A well-polished van attacked by a ram which mistook a reflection as a rival male and butted the side of the vehicle (1953)
- A horse that ate a car’s rear lamp (1957)
- A soft top car roof chewed by a horse (1956)
- A circus elephant reaching through a car window with his trunk in search of food, grabbing the driver’s lunch and smashing the windscreen(1934)
- A delivery van crashed in to a ditch when a mouse ran up the driver’s trouser leg (1954)
- A car that crashed after a cat leapt on to the driver’s head. (1954).
Thumbing through the archive also throws up some famous names. Over the years, Aviva has covered King George V, US presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower and Hollywood actress Merle Oberon.
The firm also insured the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car from the 1968 film.
Rob Townend, director of motor claims at Aviva, said “The motor industry has undergone a huge change in the past century, from a time when owning a car was the preserve of the very rich and seeing one would be a rarity, to the modern day where there is almost one car for every two people.
“While there were fewer cars on the road back then, fewer road laws and less experienced drivers meant the chances of being involved in an accident were much higher. These historic claims really illustrate what a steep learning curve both drivers and pedestrians faced.”
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