50 years of car safety

8th December 2014

Car legislation and features we take for granted today haven't always been around to protect earlier generations of UK motorists. While speeds on most roads have been consistent since the 1930's, other aspects of safety have undergone dramatic changes.

Take a drive down memory lane and use our graphic as your in-car guide.

Speed Limit Perhaps one of the most surprising facts is that speed limits have remained constant since before WW2 - 1937 to be exact. While the speed limits have not changed, the volume of cars has. With an estimated 35 million cars on the roads today, that is a staggering 34 million increase since the 1930's when cheaper manufacturing methods allowed more people to join the elite car owning classes.

Drink Driving The first TV advert to highlight the dangers of drink driving was aired in 1964 with the catchy slogan "Don't ask a man to drink and drive". Two years later, drink drive limits were introduced which are still in place in England today. Scotland recently reduced theirs to the point where zero intake is the safest policy for drivers. South of the border the limits are 80mg of alcohol to 100cc of blood and north of the border it is 50mg per 100cc. Deaths as a result of drink driving, have fallen from 1640 in 1964 to 230 today.

Airbags were conceived by John W Hetrick after a car accident involving him and his family, although his idea was not fully embraced for another 30 years. He did patent the "safety cushion assembly" however it is said he did not receive any compensation for his ground-breaking prototypes.

Child Car Seats More cosmetic in the early days it was not until 1989 that children were required by law to wear seat belts. It was then a further 17 years before child car seats were made mandatory for those children up to age 12 or 135cm tall (or whichever comes first).

ABS (Antilock Braking Sysyem) prevents wheels from locking while braking is in motion and is especially useful on wet roads. While developed as early as 1929 for the aircraft industry, it was not until 1985 that ABS came into use widely in the UK. Today it is fitted as standard on most new cars.

Seat Belts While cars made from 1967 were fitted with seat belts their use was not compulsory. It wasn't until 1983 that drivers and front seat passengers became required by law to wear seat belts in cars. By 1991 all passengers were required to comply and ensure that seat belts were worn.