Road Safety Week
Whilst researching LSA’s extensive collection of archive films of London, I came across a number of fascinating films that focus on the capital’s chaotic roads and attempts to control them.
Watching these road safety films made me question if their messages are much softer than those of similar advertisements made today. Perhaps the dangers were less extreme too? Whilst on my own commute, weaving my bicycle around flung open car doors or a disused phone box abruptly cutting off the cycle-path, I often wistfully imagine a less congested commute in a time gone by. Did fewer commuters and less congested roads mean less danger? Were the hazards similar to those facing road users today?
Perhaps you remember a particular road safety film that has stuck with you from when you were younger?
Here are eight road safety gems from the last 70 years:
Amateur film about the road safety campaign by the Bexley, Erith & Crayford Road Safety Committee. This film includes street scenes of busy roads. People with 'crossings not coffins' and 'slow down in town' placards. Protestors and brass band march down street past Upton Farm Stores, cinema and a shop. Marchers are followed by a truck pulling a caravan with road safety posters on the side.
Road Safety Campaign
Road safety demonstrations for local school children in Erith. Street scenes in the locality reveal a wide variety of traffic, including horse-drawn milk floats, workmen pushing hand carts, motorbikes and vintage cars. The local police force provide demonstrations in schools, and a comical sequence reveals the dangers of crossing the road carelessly.
Erith Road Safety
This film attempts to convince the viewer of the good sense in wearing a seat belt whilst driving a car by using a comic device. A woman driving a car without the protection of a seat belt is pulled over by a police officer and invited to take part in a road safety experiment. She agrees but is caught unawares when she finds herself hoisted into the air by a crane. The commentator then informs her that having a crash at 30 miles an hour is equivalent to a fall from a height of 15 feet in the air. The crane then proceeds to hoist her higher and higher indicating the equivalences of crashing at a number of speeds up to the national speed limit of 70 miles per hour.
A rather sinister device of a clown carrying balloons is used to introduce children to good road safety practices. The appearance of both the clown and an ice cream van as well as the proximity of a newsagents are used to provide several reasons for children to need to cross a road. Both good and bad road crossing practice are in evidence, with careless crossings symbolically characterised with the popping of one of the clown's balloons.
A dramatised story of schoolchildren walking to a hospital to visit a friend who has been injured in a road accident. En route to the hospital the teenagers exchange stories of accidents and near accidents that they have been involved in. These scenes are shown in flashback and used to illustrate principles of road safety for cyclists by demonstrating good and bad practice.
A stop-motion animation story of a difficult old woman who takes risks crossing the road. A rhyming ode describes the action as she suffers a number of near misses with passing traffic as she goes out shopping. The animated film is bookended with live action footage of boxer Henry Cooper sat behind a desk in a wood panelled room explaining the importance of taking care when crossing the road.
The Tale of Elsie Bossing
The dramatised tale of three factory workers making their way home is used to promote road safety (the factory appears to be the Greenwich Metal Works of G.A. Harvey & Co. on Woolwich Road). Each character uses a different form of transportation, Mary rides her bicycle, Johnny rides his motorcycle and Fred uses the trolley bus. In their haste, all three make careless mistakes putting themselves in danger however, only escaping accidents through good luck. The narrator alerts them to their folly by directing them to newspaper stories in which alternate fortune leads to their death or injury. Various streets in the Greenwich and Blackheath area are seen in the course of their journeys.
A road safety film by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). A series of incidents showing bad behaviour by motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and users of public transport are staged on real roads in urban and rural settings, in an attempt to promote better habits.