Cars and roads dominate so much of our lives today. Up until 1905 when T.P. Williamson brought the first car to Yass, horse and buggy accidents and road conditions were still big issues for the community. Buggies overturned in precarious river crossings and horses bolted.  Road maintenance was expensive and a constant issue for Councils. 

On the 9th March 1883 the Yass Courier reported on the Council meeting which listed and classified the extensive gravel road systems in the district. A motion was passed “That an address be presented to the Governor, praying that his Excellency will be pleased to cause provision to be made on additional surplus revenue estimate for 1883 to add to the grants set apart for the repair and maintenance of the main and minor roads of the colony for the present year.” The Old Gap Road, the original road into the Yass Valley from Sydney, was still listed as a Class B road requiring maintenance in 1910. 

Lieutenant Colonel H. A. Youden, D.S.O., V.D., Secretary of the Road Safety Council of New South Wales in 1937 was not so sure the invention of the motor car was an unqualified success.  The deaths of 72 children under fourteen killed in car accidents was of the gravest concern. “It is an appalling price to pay for the increased amenities which the motor vehicle has conferred upon the community. No other form of progress has exacted a toll of this kind; in fact, most other advances which have been made from time to time in the history of mankind have resulted in a saving rather than a loss of life.” 

He laments the sorrow and distress to so many homes and adds there are many children badly injured who will suffer disability for life. His concern extends to country children “In the rural districts many children have to travel some distance to and from school, and are constantly exposed to the dangers of the road”. 

Forty seven years after that first car in the district, in July 1952, the complaints to Council regarding road maintenance issues remain frustratingly long: 

  1. Arabin, ‘Mossfield’ Binalong stated he would hold the Council responsible for any accident at Boorowa road entrance. T.W. Storey, ‘Werong’ Yass stated the Gums road was impassable by car four miles from Yass. On the Hardwicke road, a water diversion from natural watercourse on to the road was causing a bog. Mr. W. Richards states he cannot get his car out owing to the road condition. Cr. Ryan asks when will more work be done on Bowning streets. The president, Cr. E. C. Archer, drew attention to timber and scrub on roads, and said steps should be taken to call tenders for the removal of the timber.

Dual carriage ways, bitumen seal and careful driving should help with both accident statistics and maintenance and knowing our precious cars are major emitters of CO2, quieter less toxic electric cars hopefully will make them nicer to have around. 

Judith Davidson 

For Yass and District Historical Society 

Image courtesy of YDHS Archives