The Highway Code was initially introduced today in 1931. Today, eighty years later, it is still the definitive resource for best driving practice in the UK.
Before its introduction, road accident caused fatalities averaged over 7,000 annually with only 2.3 million vehicles on the roads. The fatalities figure has dropped by over two thirds to 2,222 annually while the number of vehicles has soared to well over 34 million on the roads today.
When the original edition was published, as a result of 1930’s Road Traffic Act, road users were counselled to ‘always be careful and considerate towards others. As a responsible citizen you have a duty to the community not to endanger or impede others in their lawful use of the King’s Highway.’
While this advice is still as relevant today, many features have been drastically altered, in light of technological innovation and the ever changing vehicles using our roads.
Archaic advice referring to horse-drawn carriages has long since disappeared. Stopping distances, traffic lights, road signs and mirrors are not featured in the first edition, priced at one old penny (1d) but hand signals (policemen and road users) were very prominent, taking over a third of the original twenty-four page booklet, which also featured advertisements for both the RAC and the AA.
Eighty years from now, what features of the current guide will be obsolete and archaic and what will have taken their place?