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ALL OUR YESTERDAYS: THE HIGHWAY CODE WHO WAS MERVYN JOSEPH PIUS O’GORMAN?


He was a British electrical engineer and rose to the position of a Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnbor- ough. He was also vice-chairman of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) between 1928 and 1931.


In 1930, the Road Traffic Act was enacted, one of the clauses in the act was to abolish the 20 mph speed limit. Due to the number of road traffic deaths, it became the top priority to introduce some form of acknowledgement of the necessity to adhere to road signs. This resulted in the introduction of our Highway Code which cost one penny. Mr O’Gorman, through his association with the RAC, had become very interested in motoring, particularly road safety and traffic management, and along with the then Ministry of War Transport, assisted in the writing of The Highway Code.


ROAD TRAFFIC ACT 1930 INTERESTING FACTS


Classification of Motor Vehicles: This did not include tram cars. Traction Engines were classed as heavy and light locomotives, there were also classifica- tions for heavy motorcars, motorcars in general, motorcycles and believe it or not invalid carriages.


Licensing of Drivers: If you were eligible to drive, the licence cost five shillings. It remained for twelve months and if required by a policeman, you had to produce your licence for examination. Many paragraphs, chapters and clauses in the 1930 Road Traffic Act are still in force today but worded slightly differently. This was a major road traffic act that clearly identified motor vehicles had to be insured.


If we go back to 1920, the Regulation of Motor Vehicles announced that a compulsory code on signals should be introduced. Unbelievably drivers in London had designed a system for signalling their intentions to turn right or stop


using their arm. Because of this it was decided that a standard code should be implemented across the country. How many readers of PHTM were taught to use arm signals when they took their driving test back in the day?


Highway Code - First Edition: This was published on the 14th April 1931. It contained 18 pages of advice, including the arm signals. Today’s Highway Code book, the official guide from the Department for Trans- port is 146 pages, nine pages just cover the index alone. However, although slightly different, some of the arm signals that are used by today’s drivers are in the 1931 edition.


Thousands of the Highway Code books are sold each year, in fact it never leaves the best sellers list! In 1931, there were according to figures, 2.3 million motor vehicles in the UK, with over 7,000 people killed in road accidents each year.


Mirrors weren’t mentioned in the first Highway Code - drivers were advised to sound their horns when overtaking! It also advised drivers of horse drawn vehicles before stopping, slowing down or changing direction to give the appropriate signal with a hand or whip, clearly, and in good time.


Developments: In 1954 the Highway Code had colour illustrations, and with the arrival of motorways in the late 1950s there was a new section for motorway driving. The driving test itself was introduced in 1935, but there were no test centres. So if you had to meet the examiner, it was either at a post office, train station or another suitable location.


I feel sure you would agree, we need The Highway Code - some motorists more than others!


Ian Hall, Chairman SHPHA Southampton Hackney and Private Hire Association Southampton hackney and private hire drivers in our city www.southamptontaxis.org


72 FEBRUARY 2021


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