Although some of you may have had their first driving lessons on an empty airfield strip, most of us will remember these moments as a never ending hour with an inexhaustible number of nerve-racking moments. I suddenly felt great respect for my mother, who could easily practice French with us, while parenting my brother during the daily drive to school. She and Juan Manuel Fangio must have been from another planet.
But how could you learn to drive your dad’s Bugatti in the vintage era without a driving school nearby? Would your dad lend you the Bugatti with the risk of getting it returned after a somersault? Of course not! Many countries around the world had different rules on the road. The institution of speed limits and rules was necessary to get everyone home in one piece and to avoid the first ever traffic jam (more on that one later). I have found some very interesting literature from the 1930s about teaching youngsters how to drive. The French filled their weekly magazine with it, the Dutch wrote a book about it and the English made a hilarious movie to teach. I will show them all to you, but please make sure you watch the entire video of the English. I have just spent one precious hour watching it over and over again, it is educational and greatly amusing!
The French government was eager to spread their rules as cars appeared everywhere and could be bought by almost everyone with two hands. They did this by printing the rules in the weekly magazines, illustrated with beautiful pictures of cars that nobody could afford. See for yourself by reading these rules, scanned from the society news at the local barber (L’illustration 1931)
Known for their tiring efficiency, the Dutch wrote a book on how to maintain your car and the basic rules and techniques of driving. To get a driving license you would go to the post office, buy your license and this book and three days later you could drive (and would be capable of fixing your car when needed). I am curious if people would open their book during a hard corner on their trip to the groceries. (Handboek voor den Automobilist, Brown Hilgers, 1935)
To teach you driving, the English would send you for a great night out. There was an actual short movie, explaining the basic rules of driving. Popcorn and a movie and afterwards you could drive your parents home in their own car. I have to repeat: please watch this movie to the end, it is hilarious. Especially the quote on irresponsible overtaking and speeding is great: ‘it is better to be late in this world, than early in the next’. I will keep that one in mind when late for work!
Written by Dans Son Jus