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Hold your horses

When the speed limit was raised to 20mph and fines were £10...

21 May 2012

The Road Traffic Acts were passed as ?a consequence of the motor car’s grim harvest of road injuries and fatalities, but the original Victorian motoring legislation was a product of parliament’s conjecture that road locomotives and self-propelled agricultural engines would be driven at high speed ?thus endangering the safety of the public and scaring horses. Lord Esher MR said in Smith & Wife v Bailey and Another: “The legislature has treated these engines as dangerous machines, likely to cause mischief on highways, unless precautions are taken.”

In 1834, Walter Hancock’s steam-powered coach was transporting passengers in London at speeds of 15-20mph but the first speeding laws were not introduced until the 1860s. The Locomotive Act of 1861 restricted highway speed to 10mph or 5mph in towns. The Act also required each vehicle to have a crew of two. The Locomotive Act 1865 (the so-called Red Flag Act) requir...

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