Road Safety History 1861 - 1903

LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 0844 414 1982

Please note that we only deal with personal injury compensation claims and we do not provide advice on motoring offences.




Locomotive Act 1861 restricted weight of steam engines to 12 tonnes and imposed a speed limit of 12mph.


The Locomotive Act (Red Flag Act) imposes a speed limit of 2mph in cities, towns and villages, and 4mph elsewhere. It was also necessary to have a pedestrian carrying a red flag in front of the vehicle at a distance of 60yds.


The Locomotive Amendment Act 1878 made the red flag optional under local conditions and reduced the distance of the warning red flag to 20 yards.

1887 Pneumatic tyres introduced. R. W. Thompson took out a patent and demonstrated air filled tyres in December 1845.  Then in 1888 John Boyd Dunlop developed a pneumatic tyre for his child's bike. After some legal wrangling Dunlop's 'Pneumatic Tyre Company' took the lead and by 1891 had supplied over 3000 tyres to the cycling industry.


The 'Emancipation Act' introduced. 

Under the 'Locomotives on the Highway Act' vehicles under 3 tonnes were exempted from the requirement of the 1878 Act and the speed limit was raised to 14mph: The annual London to Brighton Run commemorates this. (The first run took place in 1927)


The first car accident injury claim involved a death on Harrow on the Hill in London on 25 February.


First speeding ticket issued on 28 January. A Mr. Walter Arnold was fined one shilling (5p) for travelling at 8mph in a 2mph area.
Lights are now required along with some form of "audible warning"
Every heavy locomotive has to be registered with the County or County Borough Council.


Automobile Club formed.

1901 A Lloyd’s underwriter issued the first car accident injury claim motor insurance policy.


Motor Car Act 1903 required that all vehicles had to be registered, and to display registration marks in a prominent position. The fee was twenty shillings (£1). The first registration marks consisted of one letter and one number, the first (A1) was issued by London County Council.
Driving licences introduced - obtained by paying a fee of five shillings (25p) across the counter at a Post Office. (At this time they were used merely for identification purposes.)
First use of windscreens. These were made of ordinary glass and inflicted terrible injuries in accidents.
Speed limit raised to 20mph with heavy fines for speeding and reckless driving.
Henry Ford forms his company to manufacture automobiles.

LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 0844 414 1982