Our lives have been affected in many ways this year. One of the most obvious changes we’ve seen, due to the Virus That Shall Not Be Named, is the reduction in traffic on our roads. Traffic volumes have reduced to levels not seen since the early 1970’s. So what was driving like in the ’70’s?
Having passed my driving test in 1978, I have some experience of those times. Little did I know, or probably care (as a young overconfident driver who thought it was never going to be me), but driving was far less safe than it currently is forty years later. In 1970 the number of deaths recorded on our roads was 7,499, more than four times those of today. This is due to improvements in engineering of both our vehicles and roads, education and enforcement (the seat belt law was introduced in 1983).
There were some ‘interesting’ cars for us to choose from as a new driver in the 1970’s. Whilst we had the Morris Marina and the Austin Maxi the Americans had the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger.
Austin Allegro v Dodge Challenger. You choose.
Thankfully, social attitudes towards drinking and driving have changed massively for the better. In 1979 two thirds of young male drivers admitted drink driving on a weekly basis. Hands up here, I was one of them. As a young person, I suppose, I was influenced by the optimism bias. That attitude of ‘bad things can never happen to me, it’ll be someone else’. It was cultural, it was the norm. No one ever tried to stop you from driving away from the pub, in fact your mates were happy for a lift home.
If someone who learned to drive in the 1970’s boasts to you “I only needed ten lessons to pass my test!” Remember, they had to deal safely with the junction below left. Below right is the same junction today you have to deal with safely. If you would like help dealing with roads that look more like a plate of spaghetti than a junction, please click here.