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this day in history 1897

First arrest for drink driving

Booze Cruise

The evening of September 10th 1897 was quite a night for London cabbie George Smith. He was nonchalantly driving his horseless, motorised vehicle along Bond Street when it suddenly became uncontrollable, lurched across the pavement, dented a water pipe and damaged a window frame. After emerging from his cab, a member of the public marched him to the nearest police station, insisting he was drunk. George disagreed, but the ‘police surgeon’ confirmed he was wasted and George was charged with drunk driving. What’s remarkable is that Mr Smith was the first person anywhere to be charged with drunk driving. Though he wasn’t proud of his achievement, eventually admitting that he’d had ‘two or three beers’ prior to his joyride which witnesses claimed reached upwards of eight miles an hour. George was fined 20 shillings and told by the judge  ‘you motorcar drivers ought to be very careful… the police have a very happy knack of stopping a runaway horse, but to stop a motor is a very different thing.’ Quite.

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