It’s an obvious road safety move isn’t it? Don’t lets cars loose on our roads unless each of them has its own steam-roller heading in front of it. And a person with a red flag in front of the steam-roller.
So indeed said Patrick O’Brien in 1902:
For the protection of the public, he would suggest that every motor car should be preceded by the steam-roller, and every steam-roller by a man with a red flag.
How did this tongue-in-cheek proposal coming about? The Locomotives Act 1865 required someone requiring a red flag to precede in front of any locomotives on the road, a requirement which included cars (not yet driverless) and other vehicles within its definition.
Parliament debated and changed the law several times in the following years. In 1902 the issue was raised of why a person with a red flag was now required in front of a steam-roller but not in front of a car, even though an Irish MP argued that cars posed far more of a danger to others than steam-rollers. Hence Mr O’Brien’s suggestion.
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