Topics Of Interest


  • 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
  • First speeding ticket issued. On 28 January. A Mr. Walter Arnold was fined one shilling (5p) for travelling at 8mph in a 2mph area
  • First motoring fatality: Mrs Bridget Driscoll of Old Town, Croydon, run over by a Roger-Benz car at Crystal Palace, London on 17 August


  • Automobile Club formed
  • First British driver to die from injuries sustained in a motoring accident: Mr Henry Lindfield of Brighton whose electrical carriage overturned on Saturday 12 February 1898. One of his legs was amputated and he died of shock the following day. Autocar blamed the crash on excessive speed


  • A notable crash on 25 February 1899 at Grove Hill, Harrow. The driver, Mr Sewell, had been demonstrating the car, a Daimler Wagonette, to Major James Richer, Department Head at the Army & Navy Stores, with the view to a possible purchase for the company. Mr Sewell was killed on the spot, becoming the first driver of a petrol-driven car to die in an accident; Major Sewell died four days later without regaining consciousness, becoming Britain’s first passenger fatality


  • A Lloyd’s underwriter issues the first car accident 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


  • Guidelines on Traffic Signs – Hollow white ring (speed limit); solid red disc (prohibition); hollow red triangle (caution); diamond (other)
  • The Hon. Charles Rolls designs and road tests his new car, a two cylinder 20mph machine
  • There are 28,842 vehicles registered in Great Britain


  • The Automobile Association was formed
  • Vauxhall commences car production at Luton


  • April 6: Ford Model T launched, the first car made using moving production line system
  • First AA patrols go on duty on bicycles. Their primary duty was to warn motorists of police speed traps ahead
  • The Hon. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce combine their knowledge and expertise to produce the Rolls Royce, which quickly establishes prestige and a reputation for technical excellence
  • Automobile Club receives Royal patronage to become The Royal Automobile Club


  • The Finance Act 1908 levied a tax of 3d on a gallon of petrol from April 1 1909
  • Full production of Model T Ford begins in USA
  • Rolls Royce factory opens in Derby


  • The Finance Act 1909 – 10 based vehicle taxation on the horsepower of the vehicle (RAC horsepower, calculated as D2 x n / 2.5 where D is cylinder diameter and n the number of cylinders) and stated that the revenue would be paid into a Road Fund, to be used for road improvements (this would pay up to half of the cost of some new roads)
  • Petrol tax comes into force


  • The Road Board was set up to administer grants paid to local authorities for road improvements. Its functions were taken over by the new Ministry of Transport in 1918
  • Road Fund Licences introduced. Charges were £2 – £10 for vehicles up to 6.5hp and £42 for 60hp


  • Ford overturns Selden patent; Model T production comes to Britain (Manchester), again using mass production methods
  • Cadillac fits the first electric starters after a family friend of founder Henry Leland is killed by a starting handle; they are manufactured by the Dayton Engineering Laboratories (later known as Delco)


  • Morris produces a car to rival the Model T Ford. The Morris Oxford, a 1 litre, 2 seater priced at £175
  • Roadside telephone boxes introduced by the Automobile Association


  • August 4: Britain declares war on Germany
  • Petrol pumps introduced, initially by the AA (previously fuel was only available in cans, usually of 2 gallons’ capacity)


  • London “Safety First” Council formed. It was involved in a whole range of road safety initiatives and was consulted by government committees. In 1941 it was granted a Royal warrant and changed its name to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)


  • November 11: Great War ends


  • Ministry of Transport set up, (replacing The Road Board).


  • The Roads Act 1920 required Councils to register all vehicles at the time of licensing and to allocate a separate number to each vehicle
  • The Act clarified the situation regarding cars driven by internal combustion engines – previously there had been a mess of rules intended for road engines, horse-drawn vehicles and other traffic
  • Four-wheel hydraulic brakes introduced in the US


  • Car Tax (Road Fund Licence) set at £1 per hp
  • Petrol Tax abolished and replaced by excise duty
  • Tax Discs introduced
  • Registration Documents (Logbooks) introduced for British cars


  • Austin Seven launched


  • The first roundabouts were developed to assist traffic movements at junctions


  • First use of safety glass in windscreens (Compulsory from 1937)
  • First traffic lights, in Piccadilly, London – they were maually controlled


  • Automatic traffic lights installed in Leeds and Wolverhampton
  • First London to Brighton car run
  • Single white lines were introduced as road dividers


  • Morris Minor production begins with prices starting at £125
  • First automatically controlled traffic lights, in Wolverhampton


  • Road Traffic Act 1930 abolished the 20mph speed limit and set a variety of limits for different classes of vehicle. There was no speed limit for vehicles carrying less than seven persons
  • A form of driving test for disabled drivers was introduced; this eventually leads to the (in) famous Invacar
  • Minimum driving age set
  • Proposed Highway Code
  • Third Party Insurance becomes compulsory
  • Just over 1 million cars on the road and 7,300 road deaths


  • At the discretion of Traffic Commissioners, public service vehicle drivers could be required to take a test
  • Highway Code published in April, cost 1d
  • Morris Minor costs £100 for the basic model


  • Ford sets up its’ Dagenham car plant (moved from Manchester)
  • First pedestrian operated street crossing lights installed on Brighton Road, Croydon, Surrey


  • Road Traffic Act 1934
  • The Chief Commissioner introduced tests for drivers of heavy goods vehicles
  • Driving test became compulsory, with testing commencing in 1935. The test fee was 10s (50p)
  • Cat’s Eyes invented by Percy Shaw of Halifax (UK)
  • Hendon Driving School founded by Metropolitan Police
  • Flashing orange globes at pedestrian crossings introduced. The bill to implement them was promoted by the then Minister of Transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha
  • First cycle path constructed in Britain, along the Western Avenue. Cyclists forced to give way to motor traffic turning left across them
  • 7,000 people killed as a result of road accidents and only 1,500,000 registered vehicles


  • Driving tests commenced voluntarily on 13 March and are compulsory from 1 June
  • 30mph speed limit re-introduced in urban areas
  • First Provisional Driving Licences introduced. They lasted for three months and drivers were required to display ‘L’ plates on their vehicle
  • First use of windscreen wipers, initially often powered by vacuum bleed from the inlet manifold, which made for an “interesting” variation with engine speed
  • Highway code revised


  • Trunk Roads Act transfers responsibility for main roads from local authorities to Ministry of Transport
  • Chancellor of the Exchecquer Winston Churchill winds up the Road fund, bringing to an end hypothecated road taxation


  • Dipped headlights introduced
  • Safety glass for windscreens and speedometers made compulsory


  • Morris Series E Saloon launched. This 8hp car was the cheapest in Britain costing £128


  • World War II starts September 3
  • Driving tests suspended on September 2 due to impending war
  • Petrol rationing introduced allowing about 200 miles of motoring per month for each motorist
  • Two million cars on Britain’s roads
  • Road deaths totaled 8,272, the increase probably being due to the blackout
  • Insurers complain that the incidence of car accident injury claim cases continues to increase, placing a strain on their resources


  • 20mph speed limit in darkness introduced to attempt to combat the high incidence of road accidents
  • Introduction of British Summer Time, partly due to the road death toll
  • Road signs removed due to the threat of enemy invasion
  • Under occupation, use of cycle paths becomes compulsory in the Netherlands


  • RoSPA formed
  • 9,169 road deaths including 4,781 pedestrians. This is 38% higher than the immediate pre-war figure despite their being under half as many cars on the road


  • Kerb Drill launched


  • Volvo introduce a safety cage on volume production cars


  • Driving tests reintroduced 1 November
  • Triumph 1800 introduced with American-style steering column gearshift


  • A period of one year was granted for holders of wartime provisional licences to convert to a full licence, without having to take a test
  • RAC/ACU (Auto Cycle Union, trivia fans) Motorcycle Training Scheme launched


  • Flat rate car tax set at £10 per car


  • The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) was formed with the aim of raising driving standards by offering an Advanced Driving Test


  • Seatbelts fitted for first time to Nash Rambler, intended to prevent sleeping passengers from falling out of their seats
  • Petrol rationing ends


  • Zebra Crossings introduced, the first one is in Slough


  • Highway Code revised
  • Flashing indicators on cars become legal
  • The first British diesel engined private car was a version of the Standard Vanguard Phase II


  • League of Safe Drivers Formed – amalgamated with RoSPA in 1980 to become the RoSPA Advanced Drivers Association


  • Driving tests suspended on 24 November due to the Suez crisis and anyone who had held a driving licence for one month during the crisis was allowed to drive unaccompanied
  • The Institute of Advanced Motorists introduced the Advanced Driving Test
  • Petrol rationing introduced in December


  • Compulsory driver testing resumed on April 15
  • The three-year driving licence was introduced in September
  • Petrol rationing ends in March


  • The six-month provisional licence was introduced in March
  • Britain’s first motorway, The Preston by-pass opens. Costing £4m to build and 8.5 miles in length, it is now part of the M6
  • Parking meters introduced. The first were installed outside the American Embassy in London on 10 July


  • The BMC Mini goes on sale, price of £500
  • Ford Anglia (105E) rolls out at Dagenham
  • M1 motorway is opened by Ernest Marples, the Minister of Transport on 2 November. The first section ran for 72 miles from St Albans to Birmingham and cost £50M to build (£10 for every car on Britain’s roads!). The section from St Albans (Park Street Roundabout) to Hemel Hempstead was later bypassed and became the M10
  • Double white lines introduced as road dividers
  • Hammersmith flyover in London built at a cost of £1.3m
  • Number of cars on British roads exceeds five million


  • MOT test introduced for vehicles over 10 years old covering brakes, lights and steering
  • Learner motorcyclists restricted to machines under 250cc
  • Traffic Wardens appear on the streets of London


  • Highway Code revised
  • 10 million vehicles on British roads and 350,000 casualties in total
  • Automated multi-story car parks open in London
  • The first self-service fuel station opens, at Southwark Bridge, London
  • E Type Jaguar launched


  • Voluntary Register of Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) passed by Parliament
  • Panda Crossings introduced (a forerunner to the pelican crossing, a traffic-light controlled crossing with pedestrian push-button)
  • Commercial Vehicle test inaugurated
  • Valid MOT certificate now needed in order to obtain tax disc
  • Ford Cortina launched


  • Warboys Report proposes present day (continental style) traffic signs
  • Automatic disqualification now mandatory for anyone with three driving licence endorsements in a three year period
  • Number plates with alphabetic suffix introduced starting with ‘A’ in January
  • Dartford Tunnel opened in November at a cost of £13M
  • Three London streets pedestrianized on an experimental basis


  • Box junctions marked with yellow cross-hatching introduced in London
  • Forth road bridge opened by The Queen
  • Vauxhall produces Viva (HA) at its Ellesmere Port factory


  • Temporary 70mph speed limit introduced on unrestricted roads (including motorways)
  • 50 mph speed limits were introduced on certain rural trunk roads in Britain in an attempt to reduce accidents
  • Continental type traffic signs introduced
  • ‘Halt’ sign replaced by ‘Stop’
  • Severn Bridge opens
  • Brake stop lamps were made compulsory in the UK
  • All new cars must have flashing turn indicators from 1st September
  • Personal injury claim settlements due to road accidents reach 398,000


  • Give Way rule introduced for roundabouts


  • Ministry of Transport issue “Road Safety – A Fresh Approach”, a Paper proposing a wide range of measures to reduce the number of injuries
  • Drink Drive laws come into force in UK on October 8, with a limit of 80mg alcohol in 100ml blood
  • Seat belts compulsory in new cars registered after 1 April
  • Annual MOT test for all cars over three years old, replaces the ten year requirement introduced in 1960
  • Number plate suffix change moves to August each year to boost new car sales


  • Highway Code revised and enlarged
  • Tyre checks added to MOT test


  • A separate driving licence group was established for vehicles with automatic transmission
  • Pelican Crossings introduced


  • HGV driving test becomes compulsory
  • Register of Approved Driving Instructors comes into force
  • 15 million vehicles on British roads


  • Green Cross Code introduced
  • Zig Zag markings introduced at Zebra Crossings


  • 16-year-olds restricted to riding mopeds with maximum capacity of 50cc
  • Graveley Hill Interchange (Spaghetti Junction) near Birmingham opens


  • Temporary 50mph national speed limit imposed to reduce fuel consumption (due to Israel/Egypt war)
  • VASCAR speed detection equipment used for the first time
  • Reflective number plates made compulsory on all vehicles
  • Computerized driving licences issued
  • Crash helmets are made compulsory for riders of powered two wheeled vehicles
  • Multi-tone car horns banned


  • Road Traffic Act 1974
  • First airbags fitted to production cars


  • Front number plates on motorcycles abolished
  • Legislation requiring vehicles to be lit in the daytime in conditions of seriously reduced visibility


  • Mini-roundabouts are introduced to speed traffic flow at uncontrolled junctions


  • Mopeds re-defined to a maximum speed of 30mph
  • MOT test now includes windscreen washers, wipers, indicators, spotlights, horn, body structure and exhaust systems
  • Ford launches the Fiesta


  • Highway Code revised
  • Mandatory fitting of rear fog lamps to most vehicles manufactured after 1/10/1979
  • 60mph national speed limit introduced and 70mph motorway speed limit made permanent


  • BL launch the Metro
  • RoSPA Advanced Drivers Association set up
  • Second Dartford Tunnel opened in May at a cost of £45M, having taken eight years to build
  • Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS) set up


  • Minimum age for driving an invalid car reduced to 16yrs Humber Bridge opened
  • CB radio legalized in Great Britain


  • Two part motorcycle test introduced
  • Points system replaces the totting up of driving licence endorsements; collection of 12 or more points in three years results in disqualification


  • Drivers and front seat passengers in cars and light vans must wear seat belts
  • Learner motorcyclists restricted to machines of no more than 125cc
  • First road hump regulations made
  • MOT test for taxis and vehicles with more than eight passenger seats reduced to vehicles over one year old
  • Q plate introduced for vehicles of indeterminable age, a response to increasing fradulent use of old log books to obtain valuable registration marks
  • Over 20 million vehicles on British roads. The casualty toll has fallen to 309,000


  • Lorries and trailers to be fitted with spray reducing devices


  • Sinclair C5 launched
  • Car phones introduced


  • European Year of Road Safety
  • Fixed penalty fines for minor motoring offences introduced
  • M25 completed
  • Unleaded petrol goes on sale
  • Work commences on Channel Tunnel


  • All cars have rear seat belts fitted at point of manufacture in UK
  • Zig Zag markings extended to Pelican Crossings


  • All coaches first used from 1974 to have 70mph speed limiters fitted by April 1992 (updated regulations 1994)
  • All new cars manufactured after 1 April are required to run on unleaded petrol


  • Children travelling in cars must wear seat belts/approved restraints where fitted
  • A tougher accompanied motorcycle ‘L’ test is introduced
  • Wheel clamping introduced in London


  • Driving Standards Agency created by the Department of Transport
  • New regulations require that those accompanying learner drivers must have held a full driving licence for at least three years and are 21 years old or over
  • ‘Compulsory Basic Training’ (CBT) for motorcyclists introduced
  • Learner motorcycle riders prohibited from carrying pillion passengers
  • Children’s Traffic Club formed


  • All rear seat passengers must wear seat belts where fitted
  • 20mph zones introduced to reduce accidents in busy urban areas
  • White chevrons painted on the M1 motorway to encourage drivers to keep their distance
  • Dartford (Queen Elizabeth) Bridge is opened in October. It took three years to build and cost £86M
  • Petrol prices soar as a result of the Gulf War
  • MOT test to include petrol emissions, anti-lock braking and rear seat belts


  • Speed enforcement cameras introduced at permanent sites
  • All new goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes to be fitted with 60mph limiters
  • Minimum tyre tread depth of 1.6mm is introduced
  • Catalytic converters fitted to all new petrol engined cars
  • Toyota comes to Britain, producing cars in Derbyshire


  • Highway Code revised
  • Greater use of red light and speed cameras planned
  • First trials of Puffin Crossing, which incorporates developments such as red/green man indicators positioned to allow the pedestrian to see both them and approaching traffic at the same time, and sensors to extend the red-light time if the crossing is not clear (e.g. slow-moving pedestrians)
  • MOT test extended to cover many smaller items including rear fog lamps, registration plates and mirrors


  • Bus and coach speeds limited to 65mph and HGVs to 56mph
  • Channel Tunnel opens to passengers
  • MOT test includes diesel emissions


  • Introduction of The Driving Theory Test. Drivers must now pass this written test of knowledge before they are able to take the practical test of driving competence


  • Fitting of seat belts and restraints in minibuses and coaches used to transport children made compulsory
  • 3,599 people were killed, 42,967 were seriously injured and 327,544 were slightly injured on Great Britain’s roads


  • Highway Code revised and updated
  • White Paper issued by HM Government “A New Deal for Transport – Better for Everyone”
  • Vehicle excise duty for a car/van with an engine capacity of 1100cc or less, reduced to £100 per year (from £155)
  • New bus lane on M4 motorway opened (between Heathrow Airport and London) at a cost of £1.9m
  • From 1 July all driving licences issued of the photo card type


  • DfT publish it’s strategy for reducing road accident casualties over the next ten years in it’s report “Tomorrow’s Roads – Safer for Everyone”
  • BMW sells the Rover Car Company to a Management Consortium
  • Ford announces that it is to cease car production at it’s Dagenham plant after 68 years
  • The National Cycle Network is officially opened
  • HGV drivers and farmers stage protests at oil refineries throughout the UK. Panic buying leads to petrol stations running out of fuel; the country grinds to a standstill
  • General Motors announce that they intend to close the Vauxhall car plant in Luton with the loss of 2,000 jobs
  • DfT, in conjunction with The Home Office and The Lord Chancellor’s Office publish consultation paper “Road Traffic Penalties”


  • Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel goes on sale
  • Number plate system completely revised: two letters to denote region, two numbers for year, three letters for uniqueness.


  • Car production at Vauxhall’s Luton plant ceased after 97 years
  • AA roadside phone boxes scrapped; a small number of wooden “sentry” boxes are retained as they have listed status


  • Congestion charging introduced in London
  • From 1 December, use of handheld mobile phones banned
  • Britain’s first toll motorway opened, the M6 relief road


  • Jaguar ceases car production in Coventry
  • Congestion charging rejected in Edinburgh


  • Rover Group bankrupt


  • Road Safety Act passed. The act made provision for a wide range of road safety matters including: drink driving, speeding, driver training and driver and vehicle licensing