The History of Road Safety
by Gerald Cummins
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[Note: Some of the sections that follow include details about the USA but most of the article is about the situation in Britain.]
Classical Times: Romans
had one way streets, parking laws, crossing places (stepping stones),
pavements, and possible roundabouts. There are occasional references to
road safety as we know it started with the motoring age, road accidents
had long been a problem in the nineteenth century, especially in the
fast growing urban areas of Britain. Thus in 1875 there were 1,589
fatalities, mostly involving horse conveyance of some kind, and this was
actually more than in 1910 (see RoSPA's Annual Road Accident
Very little research has been done on these accidents
and on public policy towards them but the legislation of the time does
contain measures on the proper use of the highway. Thus the Highway Act
of 1835 prohibited riding on a footpath, and has regulations on the
control and driving of carts and carriages, including a dangerous
driving and riding offence.
Drinking while in charge of a carriage, horse or
cattle was an offence under
the Licensing Act of 1872, and the Locomotive (Red Flag) Act of 1865
with its speed limit of 4 mph in open country and 2 mph in towns is well
known. There must also have been a considerable body of knowledge to do
with driving horse-drawn vehicles and presumably safety was included in
1878: BICYCLISTS TOURING CLUB.
By the 1870's cyclists were venturing out into the
country and meeting great hostility from horsemen and wagon-drivers (one
coach guard had an iron ball on the end of a rope with which he would
knock cyclists off their machines). It was the same in towns where scant
heed was paid to the safety of cyclists by wagon and coach drivers.
To protect themselves, and also to encourage cycling,
the touring club was formed (it became the Cyclists Touring Club in
1887) and it campaigned vigorously for the rights of cyclists, with some
success. They were the first to put up warning signs for hills and
Since that time the CTC has been deeply involved in
anything to do with cycling, and like the Pedestrians Association have
developed arguments that challenge the primacy accorded to the motor
vehicle. It was closely involved in the post-war road safety movement,
helping to develop cycle training and being represented on many of the
road safety committees.
1897: THE AUTOMOBILE CLUB.
Like the cyclists, early motorists were subject to
hostile attention from horse riders, local authorities and the police,
and formed themselves into associations to fight for their rights and
also to provide services for their members. The AC later became the RAC
and has been closely involved over the years in driver and motorcyclist
training, and with the voluntary registration of driving instructors.
1903: MOTOR CAR ACT.
This Act introduced driving licences, compulsory
registration, number plates and raised the 12 mph speed limit set in
1896 to 20 mph, although local authorities could apply for a 10 mph
limit in certain towns.
First use of windscreens. These were made of ordinary glass and inflicted serious
injuries in accidents.
France introduces standard traffic signs.
1904: ROAD SIGN STANDARDISATION.
At this time, most signs were erected by motoring and
cycling organisations and there was little uniformity in their design,
where they were placed, and in ensuring an even coverage of the country.
Direction signs were erected by local authorities but this was often
carried out in an indifferent manner.
The Motor Car Act of the previous year had addressed
this problem, and had stipulated that local authorities should erect
warning signs at "dangerous corners, cross roads and precipitous
places." The Local Government Board was to issue guidelines on the
design of these signs, which it did in 1904.
There were three types of sign: speed, prohibition
and caution, as follows:
1. For 10 miles or lower limit of speed, a white ring
18 inches in diameter, with plate below giving limit in figures.
2. For prohibition, a solid red disc 18 inches in
3. For caution (dangerous corners, cross roads, or
precipitous places) a hollow red equilateral triangle, 18-inch sides.
4. All other notices under the Act to be on
The above signs are placed on the near side of the
road facing the driver with their lower edges not less than eight feet
from the ground, and about 50 yards from the spot to which they apply.
(From a l920 Michelin Guide. By courtesy of Michelin Tyres)
These signs remained in use until the 1930's,
although they were modified in 1921 to include the new road numbering
system on direction signs, and to include warning symbols (with a title
plate underneath) agreed at a Convention in Paris in 1909.
1905: AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION.
Similar to the Automobile Club. Its long running
campaign against the early speed traps is well known. Over the years the
AA and other motoring bodies have had great influence on road traffic
and road safety legislation. The AA has undertaken a number of road
safety initiatives including the setting up of a research foundation,
and was represented on many road safety committees after the war.
First use of bumpers (UK).
1909: International Automobile Traffic and Circulation
This congress was set up to address problems
associated with the movement of vehicles between countries.
It reached agreement on recognising driving permits of other
countries, set conditions for acceptable vehicle standards (such as
having two lamps to the front and one to the rear, and a "driving
control" that allowed the driver to see the road), introduced
international index marks, and stipulated that drivers must conform to
local rules and not those of their home country.
It also looked at the possibility of international road signs but
agreed only on a sign for a dangerous crossing. This was to be placed
250 metres before the hazard and had to be perpendicular to the road!
1910: THE ROAD BOARD.
Set up to administer grants to local authorities for
road improvements, it was disbanded in 1918 and its functions taken over
by the new Ministry of Transport.
1913 : SELECT COMMITTEE ON MOTOR TRAFFIC.
This Committee addressed the growing problems
associated with the car, including accidents.
1916: LONDON "SAFETY FIRST" COUNCIL.
It aimed to reduce accidents by providing training
for drivers in industry and public transport; street safety measures;
and public campaigns. In 1924 it amalgamated with other bodies to become
the National "Safety First" Association. Among its initiatives
were a safety code for road users (1924); a journal (1925); a national
driving competition and the first film (1927); and later, a national
safety week and film shows for children. It was consulted by government
committees of the time and had considerable influence on them. In 1941
it changed its name to RoSPA.
1918: MOTOR LEGISLATION COMMITTEE.
Formed by the AA, the SMMT and others to monitor
legislation inimical to the motor car. In 1944 it was replaced by the
Standing Joint Committee formed by the AA, RAC and RSAC.
The first three colour traffic lights were installed in New York
and were manually operated by the police. Automatic signals were
introduced in the UK by the mid twenties. Prior to light signals, some
areas used manually operated semaphore arms. One of these had been
installed outside Parliament as early as 1868. It was illuminated by gas
leakage occured and it blew up.
Traffic lights were adapted from railway use which in
turn were derived from light signals used on sailing ships.
1919: LEAGUE OF NATIONS.
The League of Nations established a number of
scientific and technical committees, one of which dealt with road
traffic. This committee dealt with the harmonisation of road signs and
signals and road traffic rules and its recommendations were taken up by
a number of countries. The League collapsed in the late thirties but a
number of the committees, including the traffic committee, continued
after the War in the newly-formed United Nations.
MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT – Set up as an alternative to
the Road Board, to provide a coherent transport policy and to
co-ordinate the road system. It had a troubled early history and was
under threat of merger, or dismantlement well into the twenties. Of
interest was an early review of road traffic law by a departmental
committee which included representatives from the motoring and trade
associations, police, local authorities and others. Among the matters
discussed were the construction and use of vehicles, the need to raise
speed limits, driving tests, tests of physical fitness, and penalties
for offences (they were against driving tests because they would be
expensive, inconvenient, and of little value). The proposals were
written into a draft Road Traffic Bill which was completed in 1922.
Although it was not acted upon, it was referred to and amended in the
discussions that took place throughout the twenties, and in that sense
was the precursor of the 1930 Act.
Since that time, the Ministry has continued to
consolidate its pre-eminence in transport matters. Arguments have been
made that road transport has come to dominate over other transport modes
and that within road transport too much emphasis has been given to roads
and the mobility of drivers at the expense of other road users and of
problems like safety and pollution. The government has recently
instituted agency agreements with sections of the DTp, which means that
they now have to be self-funding.
School Patrol system started. It now operates in more than 20 countries
worldwide but the concept never found favour in the UK.
The Three E's concept originated about this time by
Julian Harvey, an insurance manager dealing with accident claims who
raised it at a Kansas City Safety Council meeting.
Although he applied it to industrial safety it was later extended
to traffic safety by Sidney Williams of the National Safety Council.
A Home Office conference standardised a system of arm
signals for use by the police and road users and these were subsequently
included in the Highway Code. Around
this time there was some argument as to whether pedestrians should give
signals to drivers.
The first roundabouts were developed around this time, and were
based on the work of an American traffic specialist, William Phelps Eno,
on traffic movements at junctions. They may in part have been suggested
by existing circular road layouts as at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The idea lent itself to city squares (e.g. Sloane Square), and it was
not long before "true" roundabouts with central islands were
being built, although initially these were too small to allow
"weaving". Another variant was to impose one-way movement on a
set of roads at a complex junction and effectively create a roundabout.
This was done at Hyde Park Corner in 1927, where it was called a
COMMISSION ON TRANSPORT.
This had been set up to review the 1903 Act but its
work was pre-empted by a bill introduced by Lord Cecil which proposed
road safety measures. A select committee was then convened but it was
unable to agree on Cecil's ideas and the task of drafting a bill was
passed to the Minister of Transport.
As a result some of Cecil's measures found their way into the
Toronto introduced vehicle inspections, one year
after New York had introduced these on a voluntary basis.
This Act introduced a minimum driving age, third
party insurance, abolished the 20 mph limit and made testing for some
licences compulsory. It included measures against careless and dangerous
driving and provided for a highway code.
The Road Traffic Act of the previous year had
required the Minister of Transport to prepare a code of directions for
the guidance of road users and this was issued in 1931. Although much
shorter than the present day version, it has a clearer structure and
makes it plain what is required by law and what is advocated by the
Code. A close reading reveals some curious points - for example, only a
rear lamp or a reflector was needed on a cycle at night; pedestrians
were told to look left and right before crossing, and were not to stand
about in groups at blind corners. Drivers were told to look out for
"white lines" and were not to pull up alongside a constable on
point duty to ask a question which other people could answer.
A very successful education and propaganda campaign
was carried out in Salford (near Manchester) by its Chief Constable,
Major Godfrey. The programme, which ran throughout the thirties was
notable for its introduction of play streets.
COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC SIGNS.
The committee decided on the size, colour and type of
signs, and laid down fundamental principles for a signing system, viz:
signs should be easily seen and understood, give enough advance warning,
have a uniform design, and not be overused. It adopted certain signs
agreed at a 1926 Paris convention but did not endorse the 1931 Geneva
convention which had opted for symbol only signs and which had settled
on the shape of each type of sign (although British signs were not too
dissimilar). The committee also did basic groundwork on traffic
signalling and introduced filter lights.
ROAD RESEARCH LABORATORY: Although the RRL was set up at this time it was not until
1946 when the Traffic and Safety Division was formed that road safety
research got under way. Since then the Division has established a
world-wide reputation for its safety research. With the reduction in
staff numbers in recent years more work is now placed with universities
and research bodies. It has had, and continues to have, a far-reaching
influence on road safety policy and practice.
First high school driver education course in U.S.A.
This brought in 30 mph limit in built-up areas,
driving tests, pedestrian crossings and reflectors for bicycles.
Penalties for dangerous driving were increased.
Although the RAC had been operating a system of instruction and
testing of drivers since 1902, there was no official test of competence
to drive. On and off, over the years, this had been the subject of much
debate but its advocates finally won their case in 1934. The test
covered basic car control and manoeuvres and knowledge of the Highway
Code, and the MoT set up its own body of examiners. At the same time,
the RAC set up a scheme for the examination and registration of driving
instructors. Although in a sense the test (and the training) have been
kept up to date by having to respond to changes in the road system and
in driving conditions, there are omissions like motorway and night
driving. These and other arguments have formed the basis for the many
calls over the years for the test to be updated although such changes
were resisted by the Driving Standards Agency. However, changes have now
come about as a result of an EC directive.
One curious sideline to the early history of the test
was Lord Cottenham's furious attack on the "amateurism" of the
Ministry and on the "unhelpfulness" of the Metropolitan Police
in regard to his reorganisation of police driving training at Hendon.
The attacks came in his submission to the Alness Committee when he made
the recommendation that driving instructors should be licenced by the
police and undergo the training syllabus at Hendon and other police
driving schools. This was taken up by the 1942 Committee who also
recommended that examiners take the police training but it is clear from
the 1947 Report that the Ministry and the driving instructors had won
their case for independent action with the argument that the system
would be self-regulating as those who were incompetently trained would
fail the test.
BELISHA BEACONS: Forerunner of the "zebra"
pedestrian crossing these were named after Hore Belisha, the then
Minister of Transport. They consisted of orange globes (unlit) mounted
This was formed by Lord Trenchard, Commissioner of
the Metropolitan Police, in an attempt to reduce police accidents.
Captain Minchon of the Royal Armoured Corps School was brought in as
Transport Officer, and staff developed advanced training courses for
police drivers. Lord
Cottenham was appointed an adviser of the school and amended the
syllabus which he found unsatisfactory. This was resisted, of course,
and he has some sharp words to say about the obstructiveness of staff
(some seemed to be hoping accidents would go up so that he would be
proved wrong); but the accident rate did improve.
Similar schools were formed in Liverpool, Preston,
Manchester, Salford, Chester
and Chelmsford. The "roadcraft" system and the police
involvement in advanced driving stem ultimately from the work at Hendon.
The Roadcraft manual itself was first published in the mid 50's,
although there was an earlier version called Attention All Drivers,
published in 1954. The author was "Jock" Taylor, senior
instructor at Hendon.
RAC DRIVING INSTRUCTOR SCHEME: With the introduction
of the driving test the RAC set up a scheme for the examination and
registration of driving instructors which played a useful role until the
introduction of the ADI register in 1964.
COMMITTEE ON ROAD SAFETY AMONG SCHOOL CHILDREN.
This was a joint report of the Board of Education and
the Ministry of Transport addressing the high accident rate among school
children which, at that time, was much worse than it is today. After an
analysis of the problem it looked at what had been done up to that time
and then considered what should be done. As can be imagined, not very
much was done, although the initiatives are described in such a way that
they sound quite impressive. Thus the BBC had wireless talks; the
Ministry was working to provide better footpaths and facilities for
pedestrians; and the Board had issued Administrative Memoranda. To be
fair, however, the infrastructure for dealing with accidents was just
being set in place so that commonplace measures like the study of
accident statistics, the provision of barrier rails, and police escorts
for children crossing were at that time quite new and imaginative. The
main impetus for road safety in schools came from the National
"Safety First" Association which had been supplying materials
to schools for some time, and in 1934 had received funding to produce a
package for schools for a trial period. The experiment proved very
successful and the Committee recommended that it be continued. The
Association also organized cinema performances of safety films which by
1936 has been seen by 500,000 children.
In the schools themselves, some were far ahead of
others with model traffic signals, wall friezes, roads marked out in
playgrounds where children could practice, and safety displays for
parents at open days.
It was these examples of good practice (along with
good practice by LEA's, the police, etc.) which the Committee took up in
their recommendations. These
are too numerous to detail but they contain many good ideas and
principles, some of which still have currency. Thus, one reads of safe
routes to school, the value of practice in road crossing skills, and the
need to give positive rather than negative guidance. One interesting
point they make is a division between "protective" and
“educative" measures. The first consist of measures like school
signs, barrier rails and lower speed limits which are aimed at providing
a safe environment for the child in going to and from school. The
"educative" measures, which are much as we know them, are
different in that they are aimed at enabling the child to cope in a safe
manner with all roads. There was also a report for Scotland which covers
much the same ground. It contains a set of rules for crossing the road
which it refers to as the "kerb drill" yet which is wider than
the 1942 Kerb Drill, and in fact is not far off the Green Cross Code.
The Report contains the following statement: "Witnesses referred to
the possibility of "Safety First" lessons resulting in the
fostering of a selfish prudence among children, and in a stifling of the
spirit of adventure. Was there not the possibility, they asked, of
rearing a timid generation, and of depreciating manly courage and the
thrill of danger so attractive to the healthy schoolboy"
1937: MOTOR VEHICLES (CONSTRUCTION AND USE) REGULATIONS
Windscreens were to be of safety glass and automatic
wipers were to be fitted; brakes, steering and wipers to be in good
condition; glass must not obscure vision of driver.
Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations - dipped
This was the Select Committee of the House of Lords
set up to look at road accidents and is
notable for laying down the three "E's" as
the basis for remedial work. It advocated a more attractive Highway Code
with separate versions for pedestrians and cyclists; endorsed the 1936
report on school children; and proposed a national propaganda department
and local safety organisations.
The police were to advise and assist and set a good
example rather than rely on prosecution (courtesy cops). For drivers it
wanted a tougher test and proposed banning children under ten from
cycling on the road. Careless pedestrians come in for some criticism and
there is an obscure but interesting dispute between cyclists and drivers
about the need for rear lights on bikes (cyclists said that drivers
should be going slowly enough to see them without lights, and anyway, if
they did use them it would just encourage drivers to drive faster.)
A large number of engineering proposals were made and
many of these are now commonplace, e.g., staggered junctions, dual
carriageways and anti-skid surfaces although there were one or two odd
ideas like green lines painted across the road to give advance warning
of traffic signs. Complete segregation of traffic was thought to be a
universal panacea. One
also sees the beginnings of the argument about the relative
effectiveness of behavioural and engineering measures with the MoT
saying that 90 per cent of accidents were due to road users (perhaps to
avoid spending money on roads!), and others, including a county
surveyor, saying that they were due to the state of roads. There is a
reference to the autobahns, which had impressed a large delegation (247
members) from Britain in 1937, and on this basis an experimental
motorway was proposed.
The vehicle improvement section makes one realise how
rudimentary safety was at that time, e.g., drivers peering through
steering wheels rather than over them. Regular brake testing was
considered but rejected as impracticable.
When it changed its name to RoSPA, the NSFA had
achieved a high degree of influence with its five representatives on the
Committee on Road Safety. This shows in the inclusion of RoSPA in a
proposed post-war propaganda committee, and the provision of funds for
continued work in education and publicity, and the adoption of the local
committee model in which RoSPA was to play a major role.
In the immediate post-war period, well over 1,000 of
these committees, organised into 18 Accident Prevention Federations, had
been formed and RoSPA was expanded to meet the demand for materials and
informed advice. There were many enthusiastic volunteers on these
committees, as well as representatives from local authorities, trade
organisations and road user bodies. It was about this time that road
safety officers or "organisers" started to appear, often
honorary, part time, or volunteer and usually tied in to the committees.
RoSPA actively promoted the idea that full-time road safety officers be
appointed and started holding the annual RSO course in 1949. In fact the
early history of RSO's, from NARSO in 1957 to the Institute in 1971 was
closely bound up with RoSPA and RSOs owe much to their support in those
A number of major schemes such as Tufty and the NCPS
were launched and have set the framework for much of the later work in
After re-organisation of local government in 1974,
the committee structure declined as local authorities set up their own
road safety departments (many RoSPA staff left to become RSOs). These
changing circumstances, and a move from Purley to Birmingham
necessitated a restructure and the closure of several regional offices.
Since 1974 RoSPA have continued to provide and develop new programmes
and materials but since the early 80's it has become increasingly common
for local authorities to do this themselves.
In 1989 government cost cutting led to the DTp grant
being reduced resulting in many redundancies in the road safety division
although RoSPA has now
recovered from this.
This was devised by RoSPA as just one of many
measures aimed at reducing the very high child accident rate. Its
injunctions: “Look right, look left, look right again; when all is
clear, quick march" formed the basis of much road safety work in
schools until the more sophisticated Green Cross Code was developed.
As mentioned, the 1936 report on schoolchildren had
an earlier "kerb drill" which was very similar to the later
Green Cross Code, viz:
(1) Always stop at the Kerb.
(2) Always look Right, then Left before crossing.
(3) Always keep a Careful Look-out while crossing.
(4) Always look out before stepping into the street
from behind a Car or Omnibus.
(5) (a) Where possible, cross at Traffic Signals,
Islands, or other Marked Places.
(5) (b) Wait for the Clear Signal, watch the Corner
for turning Traffic, Then cross.
(6) (a) Always walk straight across.
(6) (b) Never loiter when crossing.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON ROAD SAFETY.
This was commissioned by the Minister of War
Transport to examine road safety, and in particular to review the Alness
Report, and advise on what measures should be adopted after the war. As
a result, it is closely based on Alness but some ideas are dropped and
others brought in. The Committee felt an interim report was needed to
deal with the problems it foresaw in the early post-war period, and also
to give time to prepare for the long-term measures it was proposing.
Among the post-war problems were the deterioration of laid-up cars (as
an aside, dealers were buying these up in their thousands in
anticipation of a postwar killing); the lack of driving practice and
run-down street lighting.
One immediate effect of the Report was the launch of
the National Road Safety Campaign in November 1945, specially aimed at
the post-war dangers, but later widening out to the more general
long-term campaign that had been advocated. As part of that campaign,
local authorities were given 50 per cent grants to set up local
organisations, and by 1947, more than 1,000 had been formed. The
activities of RoSPA were expanded to cope with the increased demand on
COMMITTEE ON TRAFFIC SIGNS
The Committee ratified much of the work of the 1933
report and its recommendations for changes were based on changing
traffic conditions, new technical advances, and practical experience. A
number of new signs were added of the same type approved in 1933.
first of a series of Presidential Highway Safety Conferences held in the
U.S.A, which created the framework for traffic safety work in the
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON ROAD SAFETY
The Report is impressive, both in the scope and
detail of its recommendations; and many of these were subsequently
Among the road user proposals were intensive
propaganda (RoSPA was to play a major role in this); the introduction of
school patrols using adults and older pupils; a high profile for road
safety in schools; the expansion of local safety committees; research on
crash helmets; traffic departments in each police force; and more mobile
patrols. It also recommended some legislation on pedestrians but went
against registration for cyclists.
Of historical interest is a section on accident-prone drivers.
The engineering measures (following on from the Interim Report) took due account of town planning; of the differing functions of each road type; and of the segregation of conflicting streams of traffic and of different road users. In fact, many of the recommendations were implemented in the new towns (as well as elsewhere) although later experience showed that although accidents fell because of separate pedestrian and cycle paths, these groups were still at risk (possibly more so) when visiting other areas.
The vehicle improvement section makes interesting
reading and it is surprising how recent some elementary measures are.
Mirrors, for examples, were not compulsory until 1941 and not all
vehicles had been fitted with direction indicators, stop lights or
bumpers. Vehicle testing, based on American practice, was strongly
recommended although this idea was not taken up until 1960 with the new
The Report also deals in detail with the collection
of accident data and lists research that should be undertaken by the
newly formed Road Research Board.
It is of note that five of the Committee's 18 members
were from RoSPA.
RAC/ACU MOTORYCLE TRAINING SCHEME:
This was formed as at the time it was often difficult for
motor-cyclists to receive instruction from driving instructors, and at
reasonable cost. The scheme was operated through the affiliated clubs of
the Auto Cycle Union and through local authorities, and motorcycles were
often donated by the RAC. Many road safety officers were involved with
the scheme until its termination in 1982.
CONFERENCE ON ROAD AND MOTOR TRAFFIC
The recommendations of this Conference were
implemented in 1952 in a number of countries and were a small number of
basic rules for road usage.
It had been found that crossings were being ignored
by pedestrians and drivers alike and to overcome this the new zebra
crossing was introduced. Black and white stripes had been introduced at
a few experimental sites in an attempt to improve their visibility and
1,000 sites were painted in 1949 in a Pedestrian Crossing Week. The 1951
measure ratified the black and white stripes, gave precedence to
pedestrians, and prohibited waiting near the crossing. At one point red
and white stripes were considered.
The Act made provision for the introduction of MoT
tests and increased penalties for dangerous driving.
I.A.M. – The Institute of Advanced Motorists –
was formed with the aim of making roads safer by raising driving
standards and through offering an Advanced Driving Test. It now has many
groups throughout the country and has conducted over 200,000 tests.
This was a two year experiment to see if accidents
could be reduced by intensive three E's work. Among the measures used
were poster campaigns, driving and motorcycling courses, rallies, cycle
training (including a ten day school for children), MOT type tests, and
a safe routes to school programme.
Illuminated school signs and a radar speedometer
were used for the first time.
LEAGUE OF SAFE DRIVERS: Initially this was a Finchley-based group modelled on the
Northumberland and Durham Safe Drivers Association. It was run by the local safety committee with help from
Hendon instructors. It went independent in 1960 when Finchley Council
restricted membership to their own ratepayers.
The League grew steadily over the years but finance was always a
problem and in 1980 it amalgamated with RoSPA and became the RoSPA
Advanced Drivers Association.
The story goes that Elsie Mills, an employee of
RoSPA, was having lunch when she saw a squirrel hop up to the kerb, look
around for traffic, and then hop across the road. This was the
inspiration for "Tufty" and within a short time a whole range
of materials had been produced. The Club proved very successful with
literally thousands being started throughout the UK but is has come
under attack in recent years for its use of animals and its largely
middle class background. Most notably it was banned in some London
boroughs for being racist (red versus grey squirrels!)
1963 WORBOYS REPORT
Set up to review traffic signs, this Committee was
responsible for our present system of signing. Traffic signs at the time
were hard to see and read at normal speeds, were often not effective at
night, and did not have a uniform appearance. On the basis of these, and
other criticisms, the Committee chose the UN 1949 Protocol System which
was mainly symbolic. Guidelines on the design and colour of signs, where
they should be sited, and on the establishment of a Primary system were
laid down. It was recognised that publicity on the new signs would be
a major and influential study of the impact of the motorcar on society.
AT ANY SPEED"
Written by Ralph Nader, this was a powerful attack on
the attitude of car manufacturers to safety. It proved very influential
in forcing through some much-needed changes.
A major piece of drink/drive legislation which set
the 80mg/100ml limit and brought in the breathalyser.
ROAD SAFETY- A FRESH APPROACH: This was a White Paper
which had a significant impact at the time. It proposed a central road
safety unit to co-ordinate the national programme and area units which
would study local accidents and liaise with local authorities on
remedial work. RSOs were to have a key role in planning and guiding
local strategy in dealing with accidents but this was obstructed by
local councils. A major publicity programme was proposed; there was to
be a revision of the Highway Code and a manual on driving was to be
produced. For driving instructors there was to be a compulsory register
with check tests and advice; and motorcycle training was to be expanded.
On the engineering side, small road schemes with a
high return were favoured, and increased funding for road improvements
1968 "CHILDREN IN TRAFFIC"
An influential book by Stina Sandels on how
children's behaviour in traffic is determined by their stage of
UN CONFERENCE ON ROAD TRAFFIC:
This resulted in the Conventions on Road Traffic and on Road
Signs and Signals (Vienna Conventions). Unlike the rules agreed in 1949
these are considerably more detailed, and many have been (or already
were) incorporated in national highway codes or legislation.
THE "ELECTRIC ROAD" DISPLAY:
Around this time RoSPA had a highly imaginative display of white
mice running around a model roadway. To everyone's amazement the mice
would only cross the road at the zebra crossing. It turned out that this
was the only place they wouldn't get an electric shock – the road had
been wired up to a live battery!
1970: INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH ASSOCIATION
IDBRA was founded in 1970 by a number of automobile
and petroleum companies, with BP playing a major role in funding until
the late 70's. Since then the original founding members have been
replaced by government departments and research institutes. Among the
aims of IDBRA are the promotion of cross-national studies of the role of
human factors in driving and accidents, and the propagation of best
practice. A number of conferences have been held on themes such as
driver behaviour, drink/driving, risk exposure and accident and injury
patterns. International studies of drivers' attitudes and opinions,
driving on motorways and establishing international data links have also
been part of its programme. It is currently working on a pan-European
survey of drivers' attitudes, opinions and reported behaviours.
OF ROAD SAFETY OFFICERS.
Set up to allow incorporation of road safety
GREEN CROSS CODE: In the late sixties, criticism of
the kerb drill was growing. It
was felt it was too mechanistic, did not specify where the children
should cross, and did not take account of children's capabilities in
traffic. The TRRL undertook a revision and drew up a list of rules based
on a consensus of expert and informed opinion.
It was stressed at the time that the rules should not be learned
by rote but should be explained in detail to children, although this
original injunction was sometimes lost sight of.
David Prowse undertook a great many tours as the Green Cross Man
and his work played an important part in encouraging children to use the
code. Recent work at Strathclyde and Edinburgh Universities by Jim
Thomson, Kwame Ampofo-Boateng and Lee suggests that the Code is in
urgent need of revision.
Section 8 of this Act made road safety a statutory
duty of local authorities. With the setting up of departments employing
full-time officials there was less need for the local committee system
and it eventually fell away.
ROAD SAFETY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION.
A sub-committee of the County Surveyors Society set
up as a forum for senior road safety staff and to enable national
initiatives to be undertaken.
This committee was set up in 1974 to review the
operation of the drink/drive laws, as it was felt that the impetus of
the 1967 Act had been lost. It recommended a streamlining of test
procedures (many cases had been lost because these had to be followed to
the letter), that breath
rather than blood sampling should become the norm, and that the police
should be allowed to test at their own discretion. It also recommended a
continuing programme of publicity and education, and promoted the idea
of a high-risk offender scheme.
BHS ROAD SAFETY TEST: Faced with nearly 3,000 equestrian accidents a year, the
British Horse Society initiated a riding and road safety test in which
road safety officers were closely involved from the start.
STEP AND STAR RIDER: Funded by the motorcycle industry, these schemes had a
significant impact at the time. STEP (Schools Traffic Education
Programme) was inspired by driver education programmes in the USA and
Canada, and a short moped training course for pupils was an integral
part of the scheme. It ran into difficulty through timetabling, resource
shortages and staffing problems in schools. In the 1980's the industry
withdrew funding and reorganisation resulted in the formation of a new
and separate company BITER. Star Rider or the National Training Scheme
was a three-tier motorcycle training scheme in which many local
authorities were involved .
1980 PARLIAMENTARY ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT
Originally known as the Safety in Transport Action
Group, its membership was composed of MPs and representatives from a
wide range of transport and road safety organisations, including the
Institute. Its purpose was, and is, to promote transport safety amongst
MPs and ultimately effect legislative changes.
1982: TWO-PART MOTORCYCLE TEST
Introduced to help reduce motorcycling accidents. The
first part of the test took place in an off-road situation and was of
machine handling skills; the second part was similar to the old test.
Learners were restricted to 125cc machines and if they did not pass both
parts of the test within two years had to wait a year before they could
renew their licence.
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT – ROAD SAFETY
This introduced a wide-ranging review of road safety.
Many of its recommendations have since been taken up and much government
policy is based on it. For example, one notes more frequent check tests
for ADls, advising drivers of vulnerable road users, support for RoSPA's
Cycleway programme, the promotion of cycle helmets, drink-drive
campaigns, and research into drugs and driving. Also implemented are
speed limits on coaches, financial support for AIP work, and the setting
up of the interdepartmental review. The Report was disappointing in its
coverage of ETP.
EUROPEAN COMMUNITY INITIATIVES:
Although a directive on driving licences had been issued in 1980,
it was not until 1984 that the decision was made to develop a
comprehensive package of road safety measures. These include a 50mg
limit, MoT tests, seat belt usage and a 1.6mm tyre tread depth, and
while a number were already in place in the UK this was not so in some
other countries. In these cases the ability of the EEC to supercede
national inactivity in some aspects of road safety was and is beneficial
but it does lead to some loss of autonomy of national transport
authorities, and some would question whether harmonisation is
necessarily a good thing in view of the differences between member
countries. A recent report has suggested the setting up of a permanent
specialised body, independent of the Commission, along the lines of
PACTS which will be able to supplement the legislative work of the EEC
(note: this has now been done with the formation of the European
Transport Safety Council).
ROAD SAFETY CAMPAIGN
Set up by the Scottish Office as its contribution to
ERSY. It is made of local authorities, motoring associations, ACPO(S),
BITER, RoSPA, the institute and others. Since 1986 it has held several
publicity campaigns throughout Scotland and has developed resource
materials for primary and secondary schools, as well as other
ROAD SAFETY YEAR
This was an important EEC initiative which had a
far-reaching effect in a number of European countries and led to a
number of UK initiatives including the SRSC, the AA FRSR and GA's
GENERAL ACCIDENT CAMPAIGN: Originally launched in European Road Safety Year, this
long-running campaign has had a significant impact on road safety. Of
the many initiatives, the Children's Traffic Club is perhaps the most
important but others, including funding of booklets, calendars,
interactive videos and research will undoubtedly have a long-term
effect. General Accident have been very supportive of the work of RSOs
and the RSO organisations, including the Institute.
SEAT BELT WEARING: It became compulsory for drivers
and front seat passengers to wear seat belts and rear seat belts had to
be fitted to new cars. In 1988 children had to wear rear seat belts
where fitted, and in 1991 this was extended to all passengers.
AA FOUNDATION FOR ROAD SAFETY RESEARCH:
Formed during ERSY, the Foundation commissions research into
factors affecting road safety and promotes its practical application. It
includes the developments of educational programmes for children and
others in its remit. The Foundation is sponsored by the AA and a number
of other organisations.
SAFETY- THE NEXT STEPS
Interdepartmental review which set the one-third casualty reduction
target and assessed how effective various measures would be in meeting
this target. It was (and is) widely felt to have underestimated the
effectiveness of education, training and publicity, and to have put too
much emphasis on secondary safety. The accident reduction target also
needs considerable clarification, and in the opinion of many, the review
was a missed opportunity to press for road safety to be a compulsory
part of the curriculum.
PRINCE MICHAEL ROAD SAFETY AWARDS:
This scheme was initiated by Prince Michael and the IMI and SMMT,
and is aimed primarily at school children with competitions for video
scripts, posters, slogans, and recently, cycling.
OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS
The report of this committee was highly critical of
the DTp and many local authorities for not meeting their
responsibilities, nothing that there was a lack of co-ordination between
central and local government, that insufficient road safety officers
were employed and that ‘Road Safety – A Fresh Approach’ had been
largely ignored on the role of the road safety officer. Some of the CPA
criticisms have been taken on board but the overall response to the
Committee's concern about the number of RSOs employed is not yet clear.
THE NORTH REPORT:
A review of road traffic law. A number of its proposals are
contained in the Road Traffic Bill which is currently before Parliament
(note: passed by Parliament as the Road Traffic Act 1992).
THE "TRINCA" REPORT:
Winner of the 1988 Volvo Traffic Safety Award, this report
Reducing Traffic Injury-A Global Challenge is notable for its advocacy
that road safety should be seen as a public health problem rather than a
EDUCATION REFORM ACT: The introduction of the
National Curriculum has had a significant impact on road safety
education and a great deal of work has been done in revising resources
to ensure that they fit into the new curricular structure.
AND ROADS-A SAFER WAY
Government policy for the reduction of child
1990: CODE OF PRACTICE
Produced by the local authority associations, it lays
out a framework for road safety in the local authority. A number of
areas have produced road safety plans based on its recommendations.
CHtLDREN'S TRAFFIC CLUB: A children's traffic club, based on Scandinavian models, had
long been mooted for the UK. In 1990, General Accident sponsored a pilot
scheme in East Anglia and if this proves successful the Club may be
extended to other parts of the country (note: the CTC is now available
in many parts of the UK).
COMPULSORY BASIC TRAINING: Legislation was enacted for all motorcyclists to undertake an
approved training course.
was designated ‘European
Year of the Elderly’ by the European Commission. In the same year the
European Transport Safety Council was formed.
There was much greater use of red light and speed
cameras. Puffin crossings introduced. These do not show a green light to
traffic until a pedestrian has cleared the crossing.
Year of the Young Driver
I have not been able to find a history of road safety
as such but there are a number of publications which contain bits and
pieces of the overall picture. The best sources are the original reports
or acts, themselves, and these can be obtained from major public