RoSPA 100

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

RoSPA 100

100 Years of Saving Lives

Since RoSPA's early days improving road safety during the black-outs of the First World War, we have existed for a simple reason – to stop the needless devastation and heartache caused by accidents.

As events around the globe commemorate the centenary of the First World War, we're also proud to mark our 100th anniversary during 2016/17.

We're looking back over a century of changing attitudes to safety, our groundbreaking campaigns and the successes achieved, especially on the roads and in our workplaces where there have been big falls in the numbers of people killed or injured in accidents.

But we're also remembering those who have died, and their loved ones left behind, as well as those whose injuries have changed their lives irrevocably.

It's their stories coupled with the latest figures that show that accidental deaths and injuries are on the rise, especially in our homes, which means our passion to make a difference remains as strong as ever, especially when it comes to keeping kids safe.

We know there is still much hard work to be done and we're confident that with our growing movement of supporters we will build a community where no family need suffer the anguish of an accident that didn't have to happen.

Image supplied by British Pathé

Our History

At RoSPA, we're proud of our First World War beginnings and the fact that, 100 years later, we still exist to save lives and reduce injuries from accidents that don't have to happen.

It was on December 1, 1916 that a public meeting was held at Caxton Hall, a short stroll from the Houses of Parliament, to discuss the

"alarming increase in traffic accidents, and the direct connection therewith of the restricted street lighting which had been necessitated by the War conditions".

"The rule of the footpath"

First World War black-out conditions had caused concern about pedestrian deaths resulting from people stepping into the path of vehicles approaching them from behind. It was felt that something needed to be done and a decision was taken to elect the London "Safety First" Council.

"In 1916, nearly three times the number of fatal accidents occurred to pedestrians stepping off the near side of the footway comparable with those leaving the off-side," said the London "Safety First" Council's First Annual Report and Statement of Accounts, 1917.

At the time, it was customary for pedestrians to walk on the right-hand side of footpaths, which meant that those walking closest to the traffic had their backs to approaching vehicles.

The report continued: "It may be pointed out that the present practice causes an unfair strain on the drivers of vehicles who, when passing through the streets, are constantly overtaking a stream of pedestrians who are unable to see vehicles coming along behind them. At any moment, a false step into the carriageway by a pedestrian may lead to a driver being the innocent cause of a fatal accident."

Among various options, the annual report reveals that consideration was given to changing the side of the road on which vehicles drove so that they kept to the right. But this was ruled out due to the existing design of vehicles and road infrastructure, opposition from drivers, the need for horses to be re-broken and drivers to be retrained and the associated costs and confusion that would be incurred from all of the above.

Instead, it was decided that there would be less inconvenience and lower costs from requesting that pedestrians kept to the left-hand side of footpaths – meaning that those closest to the traffic walked facing oncoming vehicles – and Richmond Borough Council became the first area of London to display notices encouraging this.

As the practice was adopted more widely, the results were seen immediately.

"It is interesting to record that statistics to which the Council has had access prove that the 1916 total of 'near-side' fatal accidents was diminished by 70 per cent, in 1917. This result is, undoubtedly, due to the attention which, during the past twelve months, has been focussed upon the dangers arising from pedestrians stepping off the kerb on to the carriageway with their backs to on-coming traffic."

And so began a century of safety campaigning, sometimes bold and public-facing and sometimes quiet and behind-the-scenes, to change attitudes and, where appropriate, legislation to save families from the anguish and heartache that serious accidents cause.

Find out more

Please visit our main history web page to find out more about our activities over the last 100 years.

From the early road, industrial and home safety activities following the First World War, our world-renowned Second World War safety posters and adoption of the name The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 1941, through to the establishment of the Cycling Proficiency Scheme and Tufty Club, the successful campaigns to make seat-belt wearing compulsory and the use of hand-held mobile phones at the wheel illegal and Safe At Home, the UK's largest ever home safety equipment and advice programme, our Heritage Timeline contains our historical highlights.

The Rule of the Footpath


First World War black-out conditions had caused concern about pedestrian deaths resulting from people stepping into the path of vehicles approaching them from behind. In 1916, a public meeting was held at Caxton Hall - the result was pedestrians being encouraged to walk facing oncoming traffic, causing accidents to drop by 70 per cent in the first year!

Image supplied by British Pathé

Cycling proficiency scheme


The Cycling Proficiency Scheme was launched. In 1958 it became a national scheme at the request of the Government. 100,000 children a year were trained.

The Tufty Club


The Tufty Club was launched and at its peak it had more than 24,500 affiliated clubs with millions of members. Princess Michael of Kent became its first president in 1979.

Seatbelt Law


RoSPA's president Lord Nugent of Guildford secured the compulsory wearing of seatbelts with a late amendment to the Transport Bill. The law came into force in 1983.

MORR logo


RoSPA published its first ideas on the Management of Occupational Road Risk (MORR), which subsequently developed into a mainstream health and safety issue for all employers.

Mobile phone


RoSPA's president Lord Davies of Oldham introduced a Bill in the House of Lords to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Although the Bill failed it raised the profile of the problem and legislation was finally achieved in 2003.


Originating from RoSPA, the National Water Safety Forum established the UK's first water accident and incident database.


Safe At Home, the national home safety equipment scheme, was established to provide safety education and equipment in the most disadvantaged wards in England.

Brighter Beginnings Appeal

Please visit our Brighter Beginnings Appeal page or sign up for more info above.

Accidents are the biggest killer of children and young people.

Yet they don't have to happen.

As we celebrate 100 years of past successes, we're looking to the future by focusing strongly on keeping kids safe. As part of this, we've launched our Brighter Beginnings Appeal.

Despite the prevalence of accidents as a cause of harm among children and young people, less than a third of parents of under-5s think they receive enough advice and information to help them protect their little ones. That's why we've designed a Parent Pack, full of helpful tips and tools to help give children a safer start.

Our vision is to provide these packs free-of-charge, distributing them through our well-established networks of local partners like community midwives, health visitors and children's centres.

But in order to do this, we need your help. It's simple. The more money we manage to raise, the more Parent Packs we can provide to families - meaning a better chance of Brighter Beginnings for more young children!

100 Years of You

We definitely couldn't have achieved all our successes without YOU, so here’s a few of the many inspirational supporters and how they have helped us on our incredible journey.

Feeling Inspired?

Events Calendar

There will be lots of ways to get involved in our centenary via an extensive programme of events that will run throughout 2016/17.

This calendar will be updated as more events are confirmed.

Start of centenary year

Start of centenary year
December 1, 2016

Follow us on social media @RoSPA to find out how we're marking our 100 years.

Duke of York visit

Visit to RoSPA House of HRH The Duke of York
February 14, 2017

RoSPA was honoured to receive a visit from His Royal Highness The Duke of York, where he met staff, volunteers, and those affected by accidents, and found out about all the work being carried out to save lives and reduce injuries.

Road Safety Conference

RoSPA Road Safety Conference
March 9, 2017

The conference looks at how technology is changing the face of road safety and considers innovative safety interventions.

Home Safety Congress

RoSPA Home Safety Congress
March 16, 2017

Looking at new approaches and good practice in the safety of older people in the home, particularly in relation to falls prevention, the conference will consider subjects including the core principle of valuing quality of life and the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of strategies and programmes.

Family Safety Week

Family Safety Week
May 2-5, 2017

RoSPA's annual awareness-raising week, which will focus on the safety of under-5s, with plenty of ways to get involved!

Library of Birmingham

RoSPA 100 Years Exhibition at the Library of Birmingham
May 22 - July 14, 2017

Based in Birmingham for 40 years, we’re delighted to have an exhibition at the city's iconic library. Find out about RoSPA’s history and how we're still working to save lives and reduce injuries.

RoSPA Awards

RoSPA Awards

June 20, 2017, London

Presentation ceremonies and a gala dinner held at ExCeL London, alongside Safety and Health Expo 2017.

July 12 & 13, 2017, Birmingham

Two days' worth of presentation ceremonies and gala dinners at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole.

September 14, 2017, Glasgow

We return once again to the Hilton Glasgow for our popular ceremony and gala dinner in Scotland.