1911: PO Spry proposes driving safety bylaws

In 1911, Palmer Otto Spry (later to be involved in the setting up of wireless operations throughout New Zealand) was the Motor Inspector in the City of Wellington – notwithstanding the fact he had been the driver in a fatal accident five years earlier. In this article, he argues for better road safety.

Evening Post, 25 August 1911, p 7


Recently the City Council took the question of the further regulation of the motor traffic of the city in hand, and appointed Mr P.O. Spry, motor expert to the Central Fire Brigade, inspector of motor traffic.

Mr Spry has since been busy with his inspection of cars plying for hire, and last evening an interesting report of his on the problem was placed in the hands of the Mayor. It will be dealt with at the next meeting of the council.

The report is as follows:

“I have to report, having inspected all the taxicabs plying for hire on the streets of Wellington at the present time. There are several taxicabs just now off the road for repairs; these will be inspected and tested when finished. Out of the number inspected, fully 60 per cent failed to pass, chiefly owing to unsatisfactory brakes, and were not allowed to ply for hire again until the defects were remedied and the brakes tested. In one case the vehicle had insufficient brakes, and a licence was therefore refused.


“I might here state that the inspection of these motors will have to be frequent, systematic, and thorough, otherwise it will be of little use, as experience already gained in carrying out the duties of inspection has convinced me that some of these motors would in a short time be as bad as ever if not inspected frequently. In my opinion, they should be inspected once a month. I suggest that the following regulations with respect to all motorcars in the city should be adopted, viz.


“Every person driving a motor-car in the City of Wellington shall possess a certificate of competency. Certificates of competency will be issued to every person complying with the following regulations: (a) An applicant for a certificate shall be at least eighteen years of age; (b) he must show by a practical driving test and by successfully passing an oral examination that he is sufficiently acquainted with the working and use of the different levers, brakes, clutches and steering gear, also the speeds attainable on different gears, and be a reasonably good judge of speed and distance; (c) he shall have had at least six months previous experience in driving motorcars; (d) he shall produce two testimonials from previous employers as to general good conduct and sobriety.

Every person driving a motor vehicle plying for hire or engaged in any commercial undertaking shall possess a certificate of competency. Every paid driver of a motor vehicle shall possess a certificate of competency. The City Council shall issue a certificate of service to every driver of a motor-car used solely as a pleasure car providing the said owner has been driving the same for not less than six months prior to these regulations coming into force.

In all other cases an applicant for a certificate must pass the above examination. Any motor-car running in the City of Wellington for more than ten consecutive days must be registered by the City Council. The council have power to cancel a driver’s certificate on being satisfied that it is desirable to do so.


“All motor vehicles plying for hire or engaged in any commercial undertaking shall be inspected by the inspector appointed for the purpose before being licensed. Taxicabs or any other motor vehicle engaged in carrying passengers shall be inspected every month or as often as necessary. The owner of a licensed motor vehicle plying for hire shall notify the inspector of any alterations or repairs that are being effected to the same.

The inspector shall have power to enter any garage or workshop for the purpose of inspecting any licensed motor vehicle therein. Should the inspector consider any part or parts of any licensed motor vehicle unfit for the purpose for which it is licensed, he shall give notice in writing to the owner and such vehicle shall be deemed unlicensed until repairs or alterations have been effected to the satisfaction of the inspector. Every motor vehicle running in the City of Wellington shall be passed by the inspector before registration.


“A driver of a motor vehicle shall not cause it to travel at a greater speed than two miles per hour when turning into or out of the following streets: Cuba-street, Willis-street, Manners-street, Courtenay-place, Vivian-street, Ingestre-street, Ghuznee-street, Customhouse-quay, Lambton-quay, Taranaki-street, Tory-street, Kent-terrace, and Ellice-street, and in no case shall he turn a corner at a greater speed than four miles per hour. He shall at all times drive with the greatest caution and consideration for other users of the highway. The speed limit in the City of Wellington shall not exceed twenty miles per hour.


“All licensed taxicabs shall be fitted with approved taximeters within six months of these regulations coming into force, and shall be maintained in good order and will be tested periodically by the inspector. It shall be an offence for the driver of a taxicab to take a fare that is not registered by the taximeter unless specially engaged by time. Fares for the hire of taxicabs by distance shall be 1s per mile for one person, and 6d per mile each for two or mote persons.

The charge for time will be 15s for the first hour, 12s 6d for the second hour, ,and 10s for every additional hour. For a fractional part of an hour — viz., a quarter, half, or three-quarters of an hour — the charge shall be pro rata. The hirer shall have the option of paying by time or distance.

Detention: For every fifteen minutes or fractional part of same after the first five minutes, the charge shall be 1s 6d. Special orders for night work to be charged by time at the following rates: Between 7 p.m. and midnight, 15s per hour; between midnight and 6 a.m., 25s per hour; minimum for any special order shall be 5s.”

Mr Spry, in conclusion, points out that these suggestions are made only as a guide in the drafting of by-laws.