The Law

The origin of the Driving Test comes from The Motor Car Act 1903. The act meant that both vehicles and drivers had to be licenced. In those days, the licence cost was 5 shillings which is only about 25 pence! Once The Motor Car Act was brought in, you could be fined £5 for not having a licence.  It also brought the speed limit up to 20 mph and made sure that the brakes met a certain standard.

The next major piece of legislation was The Road Traffic Act 1930. This abolished speed limits for vehicles with less than 7 seats and brought in various offences like dangerous, reckless and careless driving. The Road Traffic Act 1930 also introduced The Highway Code. It made Third Party Motor Insurance compulsory and required driver testing for the disabled.

So the driving tests for the disabled were the first driving tests for ordinary car users. What they wanted to know was that the disabled driver was able to control their vehicle and the control of the vehicle is the basis of all driving tests today.

Road Traffic Act 1934:

Now that all drivers had to be licenced it was decided that they should also all be tested, not just those with disabilities. This was introduced by The Road Traffic Act 1934 and was a direct response to the level of road casualties. The other major provision was the re-introduction of the 30 mph speed limit.

For about 2.5 million cars there were 7,300 road deaths, of these deaths over half were pedestrians with three-quarters of these occurring in built-up areas. Compare this to the 30 million cars nowadays with about 1,700 road deaths of which only 470 are pedestrians casualties.

Dog enjoying being in a car

Naturally, motoring organisations like the RAC and The AA resisted this new legislation. Moore-Brabazon MP rallied against it in the House of Commons. “Yes, he conceded, 7,000 people a year were being killed on the roads, but it is not always going to be like that. People are getting used to new conditions. Older members of the House will recollect the number of chickens we killed in the early days of motoring. We used to come back with the radiator stuffed with feathers. It was the same with dogs. Dogs get out of the way of motor cars nowadays and you never kill one. There is education even in the lower animals. These things will right themselves. Why such concern over 7,000 road deaths a year?” He demanded. More than 6,000 people commit suicide every year, and nobody makes a fuss about that.

The thing is, he was a decent bloke.  Served his country both in peace and in war. Decorated for bravery during the first world war and served as a minister during the second. Was a pioneer in the words of aviation, yachting and motoring. But he had a certain view and it’s opposed to what we would think today. But also not entirely uncommon amongst his peers either.

What do you think? Was Moore-Brabazon right or wrong?

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