Driving test advice from 80 years ago

Plus: Mothers’ ages, how many words it takes to define human rights, and the death toll of World Cup construction

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

6 June 2015

9:00 AM

First test

The driving test celebrated its 80th anniversary. The first person to take the test, R.E.L. Beene of Kensington, passed. Here is some of the advice given to candidates on a Pathé newsreel:
— ‘Don’t flick your cigarette ash outside. It’s very confusing.’ (The driver behind would have been looking for hand signals.)
— ‘Never drive on the crown of the road.’
— ‘Don’t look down at the gear lever while you change gear.’
— ‘Don’t be nervous. The examination is not an inquisition but a series of very reasonable tests.’

Old story

The chief medical officer and British Pregnancy Advisory Service argued over whether women should be advised to try for babies before the age of 30, for fear of losing fertility. How has the mother’s age at birth changed over the past 70 years?

% live births to mothers over 30
1943 42%
1953 35%
1963 29%
1973 20%
1983 27%
1993 36%
2003 49%
2013 51%


% live births to mothers over 40
1943 4.4%
1953 3.4%
1963 2.7%
1973 1.4%
1983 1.1%
1993 1.5%
2003 3%
2013 4.1%

Source: ONS

Rights issue

How many words do you need for a charter of rights and freedoms?
— US Declaration of Independence, 1776: 1,317 words
— UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948: 1,832
— Bill of Rights, 1689: 2,864
— European Convention on Human Rights, 1950: 5,821

Building outrage

Are 4,000 migrant workers in Qatar really likely to die building infrastructure for the World Cup, as has been widely claimed? The estimate derives from a press release issued by the International Trade Union Confederation on 27 September 2013, which extrapolated it from a project by student journalists at Northwestern University in Qatar. They claimed the death rate of construction workers in Qatar was 5 per 100,000, compared with 0.6 per 100,000 in the UK. If 4,000 workers are to die between now and 2022, that means 570 deaths a year. That would require 11 million construction workers to be continuously employed: more than five times Qatar’s population.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    -Don’t flick your cigarette ash outside. It’s very confusing.’ (The driver behind would have been looking for hand signals.)
    Now that really is a gem. Smoking while taking the test would surely be an automatic fail today.
    -‘Never drive on the crown of the road.’

    Having recently taken (and passed) a driving test in Japan, I can report that driving near the centre of the road is not just approved, but earns you extra points. The argumentation being that it presents less risk for pedestrians and cyclists.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit