Sharing the Roads in the Early 1930s: The Rise in Road Accidents
“Appalling dangerous driving on the roads” Grandad Beck was quoted as saying by the Bridport News in 1935. In 1930 over 7,300 people were killed on the roads, compared with 1,700 in 2013. After the invention of motor engine the variety of road users increased as never before. The pedestrians, horses and horse drawn vehicles, and from the late Ninetieth century bicycles where joined by many forms of motorised vehicles. By 1930 there were approximately one million private cars in Britain.
The cases I have chosen to write about include some of the variety of road users. The first involve a Pony and cart in Bridport where the passengers landed on the pavement when they had a collision with a charabanc, a lovely name for a bus or coach. Cyclists also had to share the road with motor vehicles and these amounted to nearly 50% of traffic (see Traffic Regulated by Automatic Signals) and I have written about one of the many accidents between cars and cyclists.
|4 Generations. My Great, Great Grandfather Eli; Great Grandfather Arthur Beck; Grandmother May and Aunt Marion House. Taken at Wytherston Farm circa 1930|
Pony, car and Charabanc
Horses and pony's had to learn to share the roads but by 1933 motor vehicles dominated. This report was about a court case of an accident between a governess car and a charabanc. In this incident the bus driver blow his horn 3 times to warn the driver of the cart. Grandad Beck said that being aware of horse drawn vehicles was a problem that he was having to warn motorists about.
The governess car was driven by a local farmer from Bluntshay Farm, Whitchurch Canonicorum. He was going Bridport when the incident happened at North Allington, a distance of about 5 and a half miles. The accident happened, on the morning of June 10th 1933, near Allington Church. Accompanying the farmer, George Creed, was his wife, Elsie Creed and friend Mr Herbert Huxter.
A governess car, that is the correct spelling, is a small cart pulled by one small horse or in this case pony. The governess car is entered from the rear, to keep passengers including children away from the horses hind legs. The seats are arranged on the sides of the cart and the driver is sides ways on to the horse. This makes control more difficult and only a well behaved pony is used. As in this case Mr Creed commented that his pony was well behaved.
The bus or charabanc was driven by Gerald Stamper from Bradford-on-Avon, who had been driving for 28 years. He was returning from a trip to West Bay from Chard, Somerset will a full bus of passengers, two of these appeared as witnesses.
The accident happened at North Allington, a small parish near to Bridport. The road, between rows of terrace houses, was wide enough at this point for the two vehicles to pass. The court heard that the width of the road was 18 feet 6 inches, the cart 4ft 6in and the bus 7ft 6in. All agreed that there was plenty of room for the vehicles to pass each other.
The bus driver was summoned on three counts - for driving a motor coach to the danger of the public, driving without due care and attention, and failing to report an accident. What happened, as reported in the papers, was that as the two vehicles passed, one of them turned into the side of the other. Mrs Creed said "The bus came on and seemed to cut straight in by the pony's head. It struck the splash-board near where I was sitting and in an instant we were on the pavement, the wheel knocking off a piece of the wall and the pony's head nearly going through the window of a house." The bus driver claimed "The pony turned towards my coach", as he went to pass.
The court find the bus driver 40 shillings on the charge of driving without due care and attention and dismissed the other charges.
Supt. Beck prosecuted the case and at the end thanked the Mayor, Councillor S. J. Gale, for warning drivers about horse-drawn vehicles. He was repeatedly warning them, but except for the purpose of allowing other vehicles to pass they [horse drawn vehicles] were not compelled to keep to their near side.
The Dangers of Cycling
In 29 September 1933 edition of the Bridport News in the Bridport Police Court a motorist from Boscombe in Devon was summoned for driving without due care and attention and failing to stop after an accident. On 5th September two men were cycling from Portland to Bridport to try to find work and were on the Bridport to Dorchester road when the incident happened. At that time this road had lots of bends which have since been straighten out. The cyclists claimed the car was doing 40 mph but the driver and passengers claim that it was 20 mph due to the bend in the road, they had just passed. The driver said the cyclists were 8 to 10 feet in the road, while the cyclists said it was 18 inches from the grass bank. The incident was that the car hit something, knocking off a side lamp that was fixed to the centre of the front mudguard of the car. The driver and passengers admitted the heard "a slight noise similar to a stone striking the mudguard". His passengers looked back but as the cyclists didn't signal them to stop the carried on. It was only later when they were in the next county, Devon that they noticed the lamp was missing and reported the incident to the police. One of the cyclists claimed to have received a slight injury to his hip, he was able to ride but not sit on the saddle of his bike. The magistrates considered both charges had been proved. The driver was fined £2 and plus 10 shillings expenses for the two cyclists as well as their travel expenses on the day of the court case.
One the same page of the newspaper two other incidents were reported involving cyclists in Bridport. In one Miss Iris Brown was hit by a car and received treatment at the hospital for shock and bruises. In the other Mr Walter Carey's front wheel struck a large stone and he was thrown over the handlebars, receiving injury to his face and hands.
All original content by Sylvia Collins is copyright protected.
References Quotes in Italics:
Mais, D. and Bhagat, A. (2015) Moving Britain ahead. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/467465/rrcgb-2014.pdf
National Motor Museum: nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/motoring_firsts
Bridport News:8 March 1935 p 6; 21 July 1933; 29 September 1933