London cabbie George Smith arrested for drunk driving in 1897

Posted on September 9th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

The first person to be arrested and charged for driving under the influence of alcohol was George Smith, a London cabdriver.

Charged with drunk driving on 10 September 1897

This article from the Morning Post reported that at about 00:45 on Friday 10 September 1897, Smith’s vehicle ‘swerved from one side of the road to the other, and ran across the footway into 165 New Bond Street’.

George Smith admitted that he’d had ‘two or three glasses of beer’ and apologised, stating that ‘it is the first time I have been charged with being drunk in charge of a cab’. In fact, it was the first time anyone had been charged with the offence.


George Smith charged for drunk driving in 1897
Morning Post – Saturday 11 September 1897

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‘You motor-car drivers ought to be very careful’

Smith was fined 20 shillings and told ‘you motor-car drivers ought to be very careful, for if anything happens to you – well, the police have a very happy knack of stopping a runaway horse, but to stop a motor is a very different thing.’


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