The Highway code is published
The 14th of April 1931 AD
“By section 45 of the Road Traffic Act 1930, the Minister of Transport is directed to prepare a code of directions for the guidance of road users, to be known as the “Highway Code.”
So began the 24-page booklet of instructions for road users issued in 1931 after growing disquiet about the frequency of road traffic accidents. We might imagine today that the quiet roads and fairly slow cars of that era meant roads were safer than now, but that is far from the truth – the accident rate per vehicle was a staggering 20 times worse in 1930 than it is today, though perhaps on reflection this is not so surprising, being pre-test , pre- drink driving legislation , and most dangerously pre- speed limit . An untutored Bertie Wooster type driving at 90mph through a village in his Hispano-Suiza after a long liquid lunch could wreak havoc.
In fact in the twenties 3,500 pedestrians were killed on the roads every year, and as many again in cars, on bikes and horses, and in carriages.
The Code, costing 1d, included information for horse drawn vehicle users, and was chock-full of quaint diagrams of hand signals – a rather nattily dressed gentleman with a hat featuring in an open-top car. It also contained adverts, with the AA, RAC, Castrol, BP, and two magazines featuring, as well as an insurer, Motor Union Insurance Limited of St James’s Street in London .
The famous words that begin the instructions to all road users still bear reading today, especially by BMW drivers and adolescents on motorbikes: “Always be careful and considerate towards others.”
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