10 Sep: The 19th Century Drunk Driver

London cab driver George Smith became the first person ever arrested for drunk driving after slamming his cab into a building on 10th September, 1897. He was fined 20 shillings (around £130 in today’s money) – but was not banned from the road.

The vehicle he was driving only had a top speed of 12 mph, but, unfortunately for him, the building he crashed into was the home of celebrated actor Sir Henry Irving – which might be why he was the first person charged with a law that had technically been on the books since 1872.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the role of shame in declining drink-driving convictions; explain what the ‘Drunkometer’ was; and question whether Smith should be forgiven for his ‘Cheeky Thursday’… 

Further Reading:

• ‘First Drunk Driving Arrest’ (HISTORY, 2020): https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-drunk-driving-arrest

• Fifty Years Of Anti-Drink Driving Ads (Sky News, 2014):

• ‘14 of the most ridiculous and hilarious excuses heard in court for drink and drug driving’ (Somerset Live, 2019): https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/14-most-ridiculous-hilarious-excuses-3406709