Red flag traffic laws

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Red flag laws were laws in the United Kingdom and the United States enacted in the late 19th century, requiring drivers of early automobiles to take certain safety precautions, including waving a red flag in front of the vehicle as a warning.

Red flag law in the UK[edit]

In United Kingdom, the Locomotive Acts (also known as Red Flag Laws) was a policy requiring self-propelled vehicles to be led by a pedestrian waving a red flag or carrying a lantern[citation needed] to warn bystanders of the vehicle's approach.

Firstly, at least three persons shall be employed to drive or conduct such locomotive, and if more than two waggons or carriages he attached thereto, an additional person shall be employed, who shall take charge of such waggons or carriages :
Secondly, one of such persons, while any locomotive is in motion, shall precede such locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards, and shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives, and shall signal the driver thereof when it shall be necessary to stop, and shall assist horses, and carriages drawn by horses, passing the same,

The Red Flag Law was repealed in 1896, by which time the internal combustion engine was well into its infancy.[1]

Red flag laws in the US[edit]

In the United States, the state of Vermont passed a similar flurry of Red Flag Laws in 1894. The most infamous of the Red Flag Laws was enacted in Pennsylvania circa 1896, when legislators unanimously passed a bill through both houses of the state legislature, which would require all motorists piloting their "horseless carriages", upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to (1) immediately stop the vehicle, (2) "immediately and as rapidly as possible... disassemble the automobile," and (3) "conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes" until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified.[1] The bill did not become law, as Pennsylvania's governor used an executive veto.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Olyslager, 7 & 23


  • Bailey, T., and Kennedy, D. The American Pageant. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.
  • Olyslager, P. and Sir J. Brabham. Illustrated Motor Cars of the World. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1967.
  • The Underground California Highway Patrol Handbook.