The Motor Hooligan, 1903

Karl Benz invented the motor automobile in 1888, and a mere 15 years later here we have reports complaining about “the motor hooligan“.

In Motor Car Act of 1903 introduced the driving licence and also increased the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, up from the 14 mph decreed in 1896. The licence didn’t involve a test, however, merely a payment of 5 shillings.

There were those who argued that there should be no speed limits at all – I presume that their retention is part of what the article calls the “stringent legislation” needed on account of these nouveau riche, debauched hooligans, soaked in alcohol and tobacco, speeding down the highways.

22nd August 1903, Cheltenham Chronicle

22nd August 1903, Cheltenham Chronicle

The Motor Hooligan

The common type of furious motorist, by whose misdeeds somewhat stringent legislation has been rendered necessary, may probably be regarded as a merely temporary phenomenon, a natural result of the moral and physical decadence which is common in the second generation of the newly rich.

Young men, cursed with more money than they have either the wisdom or the virtue to use well, who have discarded the obsequiousness natural to their station without acquiring either courtesy or consideration for the rights of others, and whose nervous systems, often shaken by debauchery, are saturated with alcohol and tobacco, have been let loose to career along the roads without restraint. Any fate which may befall them will be regarded with much tranquillity by persons of better regulated minds; and society may reasonably be called upon to assist the law in keeping them within the bounds of propriety.

With such we have nothing to do, our object being but to urge the necessity for prudence even in the proper and wholesome use of car-driving. It is only necessary to watch the face of a driver in a busy road in order to realise the amount of strain which is thrown upon him. The tense muscles are a sufficient index of the corresponding tension of the nervous system generally; and no physiologist can doubt that such tension cannot be prudently endured for a long period of time, at least until it has been rendered second nature by experience or even by descent.

There are, of course, many compensations, such as the exhilaration of rapid movement, the abundant supply of fresh air to the lungs, and the pleasure of exerting a new accomplishment. All these things may disguise the effort, and may even render it more easy of performance, but they do not alter the essential conditions of the case – “The Hospital”.

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