At a late meeting of the National Association for Promoting Social Science, held in London, Lord Brougham read a lengthy paper on the prevention of railway accidents, in which he took the ground that the speed should be fixed by law, and should be moderate, not exceeding twenty or twenty-five miles per hour. He asserted that a very small number of travelers were willing to risk life and greater danger in order to save time by a high speed in traveling, while the great majority would prefer a moderate speed and greater safety. He alluded to the immunity from accidents on the railroads in continental Europe where the speed is regulated by law, and suggested the application of the same laws to British railroads. It is unquestionably true that there is greater safety in traveling at a low than a high speed on railroads; but safety does not altogether depend on the speed of the train, but a number of other equally important conditions, such as the solidity and construction of the road itself, also the engines and cars, and the skill and carefulness of the engineers and conductors. It is just as safe to run thirty miles per hour on our present railroads, with their heavy rails, as it was to run at the rate of fifteen miles per hour on the old flat strip rail tracks employed on our first railways.
This article was originally published with the title "Railway Accidents and a Uniform Speed" in Scientific American 13, 12, 96 (November 1857)