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Rospa centenary banner


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 commemorated the centenary of the First World War, we were also proud to mark our 100th anniversary during 2016/17.

We looked back over a century of changing attitudes to safety, our groundbreaking campaigns and the successes achieved.

But we also remembered those who had died, and their loved ones left behind, as well as those whose injuries had changed their lives irrevocably.

How it all began – "the rule of the footpath"

About us centenary bubble 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.

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.

Among various options, consideration was given to changing the side of the road on which vehicles drove so 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 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, with a 70 per cent decrease in the number of 'near-side' fatal accidents between 1916 and 1917.

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.

Visit our timeline

Highlights from our Centenary year

rospa centenary bubble december 2016

December 2016

Happy 100th birthday!

We began our centenary year with a national survey, which found that nearly a third of parents had never received or sought advice or information about keeping their children safe from accidents. Based on what parents told us, we launched:

  • Lifeline, a freephone telephone helpline, so parents and carers have someone they can talk to if they need accident prevention help
  • The Brighter Beginnings Appeal, raising money for Keeping Kids Safe packs, which are distributed via RoSPA’s partners
  • A Keeping Kids Safe hub to give parents and carers a one-stop-shop of key accident prevention information and advice.

rospa centenary bubble april 2017

April 2017

Workers’ Memorial Day

Acclaimed poet Ian McMillan explored the human cost of safety failings in his poem A hundred years safer, written to commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day.

May - July 2017

Exhibition unveiled

With our headquarters in Birmingham since the 1970s, we were delighted to have an exhibition at the city's iconic library. Visitors were able to find out about RoSPA’s history and current activities, see some of our vintage safety posters and take part in children’s activities.

rospa centenary bubble may july 2017

rospa centenary bubble may 2017

May 2017

A royal welcome

Enjoyed by nearly 3,500 guests from across the RoSPA family, the RoSPA Centenary Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace was the pinnacle of our centenary year.

June 2017

Ask the experts

Marking our centenary, we took training and membership offers, "ask the expert" sessions and games – including The Tufty Test – to ExCeL London for Safety and Health Expo 2017.

rospa centenary bubble may june 2017

rospa centenary bubble may 2017

November 2017

RoSPA travels to Scotland

An evening reception on St Andrew's Day in the heart of Edinburgh's historic Old Town provided a wonderful way to close our centenary year, celebrating the work of RoSPA and our many valued partners across Scotland.


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