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Roads have always been slightly unsafe places. Even in Roman times, when horses and carts were slowly cutting furrows in the stone roads of Pompeii and Rome, accidents were common – and some injuries severe. By the time we reach the 18th century, horses and carts can whip at quite the speed, and busier thoroughfares resulted in accidents that might look familiar to us in the present day. But with the advent of motor vehicles shortly after, roads were to get more dangerous – and safety measures more advanced. Here’s a short history of road safety. 

 Ancient Times

When we read the ancient historians from Greece and Rome, some of their most interesting insights are about everyday life. Some mention the slop and slurry cast out of windows onto passing pedestrians and drivers, causing more angst than injury. Others mention severe accidents, including one unfortunate man who fell beneath the wheels of a cart and lost his arm as a result. So while things were slower in ancient times, there was still bustle, and there were still mistakes – leading to injuries and arguments.

 

Horse and Cart

Though in ancient times there were already horses drawing carts, this technology would develop mightily through the 18th and 19th centuries. In London, Paris, Vienna, and Budapest, larger and larger carriages were being made for more and more opulent wealthy families. They tended to require more horses (where we get the modern motoring term “horsepower”) which meant they were heavier and faster than their predecessors. So anyone unfortunate to be found under the passing hooves and wheels would be lucky to come out with only an arm lost – it was fairly frequent that people would lose their lives on the roads of the time.

 

First Motor Cars

Next came the motor car, a revolution on our roads. The horse and carriage, a fixture for centuries, was unceremoniously ousted in favor of four wheels and a crude internal combustion engine. The figures for deaths in these early years of motoring make for frightening reading – given that there were no seat belts, and these cars could take people up to 30mph with ease, thousands of crashes claimed thousands of lives in these early years. It wasn’t until the seat belt was pioneered by Ford in the twentieth century that deaths from relatively slow impacts were reduced to nearly nil.

 

Modern Roads

Now we come to modern roads, where cars tend to be faster, larger, heavier – and better protected. Now we have strict rules governing qualification and safe driving, and we can have insurance that helps people recover from damages. We even have policies, like cheap auto insurance Las Vegas, which reward safer driving with lower premiums, which means that there’s another incentive to drive safely across the city. So roads are far busier and faster in the modern age, but they’re also significantly safer – making cities in the US relatively safe for motorists and pedestrians.

Driving and vehicular safety have changed a lot over the years, from early horses and carts to the modern motor cars we now use on our commutes.