A RULE book is also code a conduct; obey the rules correctly and you will always find yourself within the law, whether it's playing to the rules of Association Football, or abiding by the laws of the highway as a driver and obeying the Highway Code. During a recent trawl through the Bugle archives, the following newspaper cutting was discovered from November 1934, entitled "Speeding Lorries".
This in turn led to some research into speed limits in general, when they were first enforced in this country, etc., and a surprising anomaly came to light. But first, who was caught speeding 78 years ago? "William Samuel Bakewell, aged 19, of New Street, Bloxwich, was fined 40 shillings at Walsall for exceeding the speed limit when driving his lorry between Bloxwich and Walsall.
In other cases of speeding, Edwin William Mason, aged 22, of Garden Street, Walsall, was fined 20 shillings, and Frederick Pardoe aged 18, of Heathcliffe Road, Birmingham was fined 40 shillings."
The report doesn't specify the speeds the three drivers were doing at the time, but the different fine tariffs suggest a speeding scale was in force. (In comparison these days, if caught speeding just fractionally above 30 mph in a 30 mph limit zone, the fine is £60 plus 3 points on your licence).
The first speed limits in the United Kingdom were set by a series of restrictive Locomotive Acts in 1861, 1865 and 1868, the first introducing a maximum limit of 10 mph. In 1865 the so called "Red Flag Act" reduced the limit to 4 mph in the country and just 2 mph in the town and required a man with a red flag or lantern to walk 60 yards ahead of each vehicle and warn horse riders and horse drawn traffic of the approach of a self-propelled machine. In 1896, after an intense lobby by motor vehicle enthusiasts, the Locomotives on Highway Act was introduced, allowing the speed limit to be raised to 14 mph, and the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run commemorates the passing of this Act. The speed limit for cars was then raised to 20 mph in 1903 and remained in force until 1931 when all speed limits for cars and motorcycles were abolished under the Road Traffic Act of 1930. The government said at the time, "The existing speed limit was so universally disobeyed that its maintenance brought the law into contempt."
For the only time in the modern era of motorised traffic on British roads, car drivers were not restricted to certain speeds, and ironically during the years 1930 to 1935 road fatalities, which were extraordinarily high anyway, were reduced by 11%. But this freedom enjoyed by relatively few private car owners was short lived and the Road Traffic Act of 1934, created by Leslie Hore-Belisha, then the Minister of Transport, introduced a 30 mph speed limit in built up areas for cars and motorcycles which came into force on 18th March 1935, and has remained virtually unaltered ever since.
But how fast were our three young speeding lorry drivers from Birmingham and the Black Country going back in 1934? The speed limit for cars may have been abolished in 1931, but the same Act had imposed a 30 mph speed limit on coach services, bus services and most HGVs. It’s therefore safe to assume that all three were travelling in excess of 30 mph.