Road safety organisation and breakdown cover provider GEM Motoring Assist is celebrating its 80th Anniversary and 80 years of road safety campaigning.  Formed in 1932, the company has been a champion of road safety issues since its creation, and continues to be committed to road safety campaigns today.

    1932 Theo Porter

    As well as supporting a wide variety of activities including conferences, award schemes and research, GEM also champions national and local road safety campaigns, donating equipment for training, assessment and vision screening, and producing free motoring advice and road safety leaflets and videos.

    David Williams MBE, Chief Executive of GEM Motoring Assist, comments: “The legend has it that our founder was involved in a ‘near miss’ with a young man in a sports car in 1932 and in response, a group of friends formed a club to encourage Care, Courtesy and Concentration on the roads, to reduce the growing accident toll…and so the Company of Veteran Motorists was born.

    “There have been many motoring changes in our 80 years and we have played our part. From drink driving and motorway speed limits to lighter evenings and driving with pets, we have moved with the times, but our aim is still the same: to keep motorists as safe as possible on the road.”

    To mark the occasion, GEM has sourced vintage cars, one from each decade of the last 80 years, and will be taking them for a test drive around the stunning Newhouse Estate, Salisbury, Wiltshire.  Set to be featured in the next issue of GEM’s motoring magazine Good Motoring, the piece will also take a look back at some quirky and interesting road safety facts and figures from the last 80 years.

    “It is really interesting to see in which decade new laws were introduced to make the roads safer for drivers and reduce accident rates. For example, in 1958 Volvo was the first to introduce the seatbelt, but it wasn’t until 1983 that it became compulsory to wear one in the UK when in the front seat; something which is second nature to us these days.  We are delighted to be celebrating the success of road safety initiatives over the last 80 years and long may it continue to save lives on the road,” David concludes.


    • 1932 The Company of Veteran Motorists is founded. It’s just a year after the publication of the first Highway Code.
    • 1934 A 30mph limit is imposed in built-up areas by Transport Minister Leslie Hore Belisha. Pedestrian (Zebra) crossings are introduced, illuminated by a flashing orange (Belisha) beacon. New drivers are required to pass a test.
    • 1935 There are now 35 million motor vehicles on the world’s roads according to an international census. A 30mph speed limit is introduced for towns and villages.
    • 1938 The British government raises the petrol tax from 8d to 9d per gallon.
    • 1939 The British government introduces petrol rationing. Petrol is exchanged for coupons allowing each motorist about 200 miles of motoring per month.
    • 1942 Mr Theodore Porter, a joiner and organ builder from Clevedon in North Somerset, joins the Company of Veteran Motorists. 70 years later, at the tender age of 98, he is GEM’s longest-serving member.
    • 1944 Volvo introduces its first ‘safety cage’ for car occupants.
    • 1946 Petrol rationing for British motorists is increased by 50 per cent.
    • 1950 The British government ends petrol rationing but doubles fuel tax.
    • 1955 McDonald’s opens its first drive-thru hamburger bar.
    • 1956 Fuel supplies are seriously limited by the Suez crisis, resulting in rationing in Britain.
    • 1958 Volvo introduces the seatbelt. Work starts on the M1 ‘London to Birmingham’ motorway, the UK’s first. Roads around London are governed by a new 40mph speed limit. Ford produces its fifty millionth car.
    • 1959 The UK government reduces Purchase Tax on new cars from 60 to 50 per cent. The M1 motorway is opened by The Right Honourable Ernest Marples, Minister of Transport. A wider network is planned.
    • 1961 The ‘MOT’ test is introduced by Ernest Marples, requiring that all cars over 10 years old are subjected to an annual test.
    • 1964 Despite continuing disinterest, front seatbelts are now supplied as standard in all American cars.
    • 1965 The Government introduces a 70mph maximum speed as a ‘four month experiment’.
    • 1966 Rear seatbelts now supplied as standard equipment in all cars sold in the USA. The Jensen FF becomes the first car to be fitted with anti-lock brakes (ABS).
    • 1967 The breathalyser is introduced. Swedish motorists swapped from driving on the left to driving on the right. All cars sold in Britain must now be fitted with front seatbelts.
    • 1973 Motorists queue for petrol and speeds are restricted to 50mph to conserve national stocks and consumption. Chevrolet offers airbags in some models as a reaction to a rise in fatal car accidents in the USA.
    • 1974 In an attempt to cut fatalities in the United States the maximum speed limit is reduced to 55 mph.
    • 1978 GEM starts offering breakdown recovery for its members. The Mercedes Benz S-class becomes the first production car with ABS.
    • 1981 The Mercedes Benz S-class gets a driver airbag.
    • 1982 The Dutch firm, Gatsometer, introduces its first mobile speed traffic camera.
    • 1983 Front seatbelt use becomes compulsory in the UK.
    • 1986 The first speed camera was introduced, in Friendswood, Texas.
    • 1987 All new cars sold in the UK must now be fitted with rear seatbelts.
    • 1991 Rear seat belts, if fitted, must be worn by all occupants.
    • 1994 European crash test standards, later to become EuroNCAP, begin.
    • 2001 Renault Laguna II becomes first EuroNCAP ‘five-star’ car.
    • 2002 Finnish sausage heir Jussi Salonaja was caught driving at 50mph in a 25 zone. This results in a salary-based fine of more than £120,000.
    • 2003 Hazard perception test is added to the driving test. It becomes illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. First customers for Rolls Royce’s new Phantom take delivery.
    • 2009 The town of Swindon abandons the use of fixed speed cameras.
    • 2010 A Swedish driver is detected at 180mph by a camera in Switzerland, leading to a fine of £538,000.