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I was wondering if before the automobile some places it was illegal to drive a carriage drunk? The first law in the USA against drunk driving was 1910 in Massachusetts. But I don't know if there are instances where they forbade it for people to steer the carriage while drunk.

I would like to know if there was anything before the 1900s.

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    Are you asking only for the US, or the world in general? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Aug 4 '17 at 17:37
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    Prior to the age of the automobile, what you really needed to look out for was drunk horses. – Dacio Aug 4 '17 at 18:53
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    There were, but my source Das Letzte Jahrhundert des Pferdes is currently 15,000km away from me. – Marakai Aug 4 '17 at 19:22
  • I've heard that Dodge City in its wildest days had fewer deaths from gunfire than from drunk driving. – Anton Sherwood Aug 5 '17 at 18:59
  • @AntonSherwood From drunk driving of horse-drawn carriages? The wildest days of Dodge City were before 1886, according to Wikipedia (last paragraph of the "History" section, and note that it says nothing after 1886!). – David Richerby Aug 6 '17 at 18:29
45

In the UK, the 1872 Licencing Act made it an offence to be:

... drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine, or who is drunk when in possession of any loaded firearms, ...

I understand that parts of that Act remain in force.

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    Not much of the Act is still in force: see legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/35-36/94 and note that a level 1 standard scale maximum fine is now £200, which is one hundred times the 40 shillings mentioned – Henry Aug 4 '17 at 23:08
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    Wonder if it would be legal to give the horse or ox enough alcohol to make it inebriated? – Baard Kopperud Aug 5 '17 at 5:25
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    @Henry If you allow for the various ways to interpret the effects of inflation and the value of money 40 shillings in 1872 has a value in todays money ranging from about £170 to £3000. – StephenG Aug 6 '17 at 1:57
  • @BaardKopperud That would come under animal cruelty legislation. You'd also need to check whether the driver is liable for the behaviour of their animals. For example, dogs are viewed as controllable animals so if my dog runs into the road and knocks you off your bike, I think I'm liable, whereas I wouldn't be if my cat did the same thing. I guess the law must recognize that horses are liable to get spooked and bolt, but I've no idea how liable that would make somebody for the behaviour of their drunken horse. – David Richerby Aug 6 '17 at 16:54
23

"Causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving" (whether drunk or not) was made illegal by the Offences against the Person Act 1861. It is interpreted as applying to:

  • drivers of horse-drawn carriages and vehicles
  • motorists who cannot be prosecuted for dangerous driving because they were driving elsewhere than on a road or public place [...]
  • cyclists who cannot be prosecuted for dangerous cycling because they were cycling elsewhere than on a road [...]

It remains in force today in England and Wales, and was used in a prosecution in 2009. In that instance, a cyclist knocked down a pedestrian on the pavement. He was jailed for seven months, and banned from driving for a year.

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    He was banned from "driving"? Or cycling (his real offense)? – Tom Au Aug 6 '17 at 3:32
  • @TomAu the article says driving... – Tim Aug 6 '17 at 9:38
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    This law seems to condemn the act of causing bodily harm, not the wanton or furious driving itself. It's only applicable when something already has happened, it doesn't stop me from drunk driving. – Bergi Aug 6 '17 at 13:35
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    @TomAu From driving. There's no mechanism for banning somebody from cycling, since cycling doesn't require any qualifications or anybody's permission (there's no "cycling license"). It's also a subtlety of English law that you can't get points on your driving license for cycling dangerously, but you can be outright banned from driving. – David Richerby Aug 6 '17 at 17:06
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    @DavidRicherby: I agree! The first answer answers the question, but I felt this was, if not relevant, at least interesting. The voters can decide if they agree :-) – Steve Melnikoff Aug 6 '17 at 18:18

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