CLOSE
Scott Barbour/Getty Images (London To Brighton Veteran Car Rally)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images (London To Brighton Veteran Car Rally)

Ridiculous U.K. Traffic Laws of Yore

Scott Barbour/Getty Images (London To Brighton Veteran Car Rally)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images (London To Brighton Veteran Car Rally)

In the 19th-century United Kingdom, driving a horseless carriage was a huge pain. The "Locomotive Acts" passed in 1865 by the British Parliament set out a series of legal restrictions for drivers, mostly aimed at keeping the road safe for horses, horse-driven carriages, and pedestrians—and restricting horseless carriages severely. For instance, one provision set the speed limit at 2 miles per hour within towns; another required a person to walk in front of the vehicle waving a red flag...at all times. The latter requirement earned the restrictions the nickname "red flag laws."

While these laws arguably made some sense in 1865—to prevent steam-powered vehicles from going wild on dirt roads and paths primarily trafficked by horses—they weren't relaxed until 1896. This forced early drivers (in the 1890s) to jump through bizarre hoops, or simply give up and use a horse. Below is selected text from the law, broken into parts, with emphasis added. You'll notice that this is written to deal with steam engines, but also applied to any conveyance that wasn't powered by animals—this pointed squarely at internal combustion engines.

Summary of the Awfulness

You could drive a steam-powered carriage or motorcar, provided you brought two friends with you, one of whom was walking in front waving a red flag. You could only go 4 miles an hour, unless you were in town, in which case you'd reduce to 2 mph (slower than walking). You had to stop if anyone with a horse coming the other way held up a hand. You had to post your name and address on the vehicle.

Firstly, "Waggon" Math

"Every Locomotive propelled by Steam or any other than Animal Power on any Turnpike Road or public Highway shall be worked according to the following Rules and Regulations; viz."

"Firstly, at least Three Persons shall be employed to drive or conduct such Locomotive, and if more than Two Waggons or Carriages be attached thereto, an additional Person shall be employed, who shall take charge of such Waggons or Carriages."

Secondly, the Red Flag Silliness

"Secondly, one of such Persons, while any Locomotive is in Motion, shall precede such Locomotive on Foot by not less than Sixty Yards, and shall carry a Red Flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the Riders and Drivers of Horses of the Approach of such Locomotives, and shall signal the Driver thereof when it shall be necessary to stop, and shall assist Horses, and Carriages drawn by Horses, passing the same."

Fourthly (Because the Thirdly Part was Boring)

"Fourthly, the Whistle of such Locomotive shall not be sounded for any Purpose whatever; nor shall the Cylinder Taps be opened within Sight of any Person riding, driving, leading, or in charge of a Horse upon the Road; nor shall the Steam be allowed to attain a Pressure such as to exceed the Limit fixed by the Safety Valve, so that no Steam shall blow off when the Locomotive is upon the Road."

Fifthly, Stop Constantly

"Fifthly, every such Locomotive shall be instantly stopped, on the Person preceding the same, or any other Person with a Horse, or a Carriage drawn by a Horse, putting up his Hand as a Signal to require such Locomotive to be stopped."

Sixthly, Headlights

"Sixthly, any Person in charge of any such Locomotive shall provide Two efficient Lights to be affixed conspicuously, One at each Side on the Front of the same, between the Hours of One Hour after Sunset and One Hour before Sunrise."

The Speed Limit: 4 Miles Per Hour on the Highway; 2 in Town

Later in the law, this gem pops up:

"...It shall not be lawful to drive any such Locomotive along any Turnpike Road or public Highway at a greater Speed than Four Miles an Hour, or through any City, Town, or Village at a greater Speed than Two Miles an Hour...."

This is consistent given that there'd be a guy walking in front of the vehicle on the road; 4 mph is a brisk walk.

Your Address is Your License Plate

And then there's this:

"The Name and Residence of the Owner of every Locomotive shall be affixed thereto in a conspicuous Manner."

Let the Emancipation Run Begin!

Because these laws stifled innovation in motorcars, many internal combustion enthusiasts despised them. When the laws were effectively repealed in 1896 (for instance, raising the speed limit to 14 mph and eliminating the red flag requirement), an "Emancipation Run" marked the occasion. On November 14, 1896, dozens of motorcar fans tore a red flag in half and set off in their cars from London on the road to Brighton. This later became an annual tradition. (The 2005 London To Brighton Veteran Car Rally is pictured above, top of the article, courtesy of Getty Images.)

Read the Rest

The legal text above is from The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 28 pages 101-102, in case you enjoy reading such things.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
technology
Wisconsin Considers Building a Highway Lane for Self-Driving Cars
iStock
iStock

Self-driving cars are already a reality, as companies like Google and Tesla have demonstrated. But the logistics of getting them on the roads with human-operated cars have slowed down their long-anticipated takeover. In Wisconsin, highway planners are looking into one way to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they arrive. Dedicated lanes for driverless cars are being considered for I-94, USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports.

The project is supported by Foxconn, the Taiwanese tech supplier building a new facility 20 miles outside of downtown Milwaukee. Once the site is complete, it will cover 20 million square feet and employ up to 13,000 people. According to the company, setting aside space for self-driving vehicles could ease traffic congestion, both from new workers and cargo trucks, after the factory opens.

Officials were already planning to expand I-94 from six lanes to eight to accommodate the eventual increase in traffic, but Foxconn says that may not be enough. “We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

While Sheehy said the autonomous car lane proposal is “on the table,” he didn’t make any promises regarding the plan’s future. Wisconsin isn’t the only state looking ahead to new developments in road travel: In October, tech investors pitched an idea to Washington state officials to convert Interstate 5 into a corridor for autonomous vehicles between Seattle and Vancouver.

[h/t Journal Sentinel]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Ford
arrow
technology
Ford Tests Exoskeletons That Make Overhead Tasks Easier for Workers
Ford
Ford

Engineers have already developed exoskeletons capable of supporting elderly people and helping paralyzed people walk. But the technology offers benefits to able-bodied wearers as well. That's what employees are learning at Ford's U.S. factories. As Road Show reports, workers there are suiting up in upper body exoskeletons designed to alleviate fatigue and decrease their chance of injury.

Assembling car parts requires workers to reach their arms above their heads thousands of times a day. While most healthy individuals would have no problem doing this type of work for a few minutes at a time, the rate at which these employees are completing the tasks puts an enormous strain on their bodies. This can lead to back and shoulder fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

In an effort to make their workforce more comfortable and productive, Ford has been testing the EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in two of its American auto plants. The non-powered suits fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall. The lightweight design provides up to 15 pounds of support to each arm without weighing wearers down or restricting their movements. According to Ford, the pilot program has contributed to an 83 percent drop in the number of incidents that led to time off between 2005 and 2016. And on top of staying healthy enough to go to work, employees have reported feeling more energized during their off hours.

The EksoVest has already helped workers launch several new vehicles, including the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Following the trial program's success, the automobile company next plans to test the technology in factories in Europe and South America.

[h/t Road Show]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios